Editorial: A silly lawsuit on cinema ads

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If the charges weren't in a real lawsuit filed in a real court, they would be hard to take seriously. In fact, it is still hard to take seriously the allegation that some movie-theater operators are breaking the law and committing a fraud on the public because the show times they post refer to when the movie teasers and product ads begin-and not the feature film itself.

Cinema advertising has become a common part of the U.S. moviegoing scene, and the in-theater medium is said to attract as much as $250 million in advertising a year. It can't be zapped or muted (but can be ignored); can often be well done or amusing; and even the humblest sponsored movie-trivia quizzes can fill the time while latecomers find seats. In our ad-saturated society, however, it's no surprise that some filmgoers find product ads on the theater screen to be an imposition.

But it's still hard to fathom how the law against consumer deceptions, meant to protect consumers against real damage, either monetary or to safety or health, would require that moviegoers be told when the cinema ads and trailers end and the feature film begins. Maybe it's too easy to go to court to for solutions to the everyday irritants of life.

So, yes, the lawsuit deserves a quick exit from the courthouse. But unhappy customers are not a frivolous issue. Filmgoers know the money from cinema ad dollars goes straight to theater owners' pockets. For the few who don't care to sit through the ads, many theaters voluntarily run the ads prior to the officially posted start time for the feature. The law doesn't require it. Smart customer relations does. Theater operators and cinema-ad networks have every reason to be sensitive about the total theatergoing "experience." If they haven't noticed lately, film fans have a growing list of options from pay-TV movie channels to the neighborhood video store.

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