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Mini Movies Debut on Big Screen and Small

Think films run too long? Get ready for the one-minute movie.

Thanks to creative new advertisements, quietly enjoying popcorn before a film or using television commercials as an opportunity for a bathroom break is about to get more difficult.

From Estee Lauder's Luc Besson (search)-directed commercial to NBC's new series of one-minute "movies," which will air during commercial breaks, companies are creating ads that look like mini films to keep viewers glued to the screen.

The mini movies are a definite trend and are appealing because they “reach a notoriously hard-to-reach group of consumers in a world in which it's increasingly hard to stand out," said Jack Feuer, media editor for Adweek.

While it won’t be up for an Oscar, Estee Lauder's (search) elaborate production for its new fragrance, Beyond Paradise, helmed by "Fifth Element" director Besson, will appear in 10,000 movie theaters nationwide this month.

The cosmetics company's commercial stars supermodel Carolyn Murphy (search) and features an exclusive cut of Madonna's "Love Profusion" track as well as top-notch special effects.

It may seem like an over-the-top effort for an ad, but others who've shelled out big bucks for min-movies that air in theaters said it's worth the trouble and expense.

“What we love about it is that you have an audience sitting there with nothing else to do but watch your ad, already in the receptive mood, waiting to be entertained,” said Rebecca Van Dyck, account director for Nike at the Wieden + Kennedy advertising agency.

This summer, the company's cinematic “Speed Chain" ad, directed by "Panic Room" director David Fincher and starring track pro Tim Montgomery, aired in theaters nationwide.

Advertisers are also thinking of inventive ways to entice TV viewers to stay put during commercial breaks.

NBC has planned a series of one-minute movies featuring celebrities such as Carmen Electra, Tom Arnold and Michael Richards (search), of "Seinfeld" fame, to air between programs. The spots will work as cliffhangers, with 30 seconds aired one hour and the final 30 seconds shown an hour later.

One mini movie, about a bullying, violin-playing child genius was shot as four episodes that will air in 30-second installments, Advertising Age reported. Each installment of "Henry Tammer —Prodigy Bully," concludes with "To be continued” to keep audiences watching.

These miniature productions are also an effort to combat dwindling audiences who skip commercials by using recording devices such as Tivo.

In the past, other such methods have included compressing credits so they fly by and eliminating commercials between shows: “Friends” ends, then “Will and Grace” begins, and viewers stay put so they don’t miss a single joke.

But some fans are annoyed by the ads — especially in theaters.

“It’s aggravating if the commercials make the movie start late,” said Michael Tully, a movie fan in New York City.

And despite advertiser's talk about a captive audience, Tully said he pays the ads little mind. “I just ignore them. I usually only tune in when trailers come on.”

Audiences are always adverse to change, Feuer said, but are also begrudging advertising fans.

“[People] go on and on about how much they hate ads, but if that were true ad campaigns wouldn’t become pop culture icons," he said. "People wouldn't be walking around with Taco Bell Chihuahua T-shirts on.”

Nike's Van Dyck pointed out pre-movie spots are constructed for the venue and audience, and should therefore be entertaining, not annoying.

“If you put an ad on there that feels like an ad, that’s selling too hard," she said. "The audience will resent it."

She added the projects are enticing to directors like Fincher who relish the opportunity to create what are essentially short films for a mass audience — and advertisers will keep pushing the flashy commercials.

“This is definitely something we’ll continue to do in the future, and they’ll get bigger and better," Van Dyck said.

Fans may not be enthralled with the ads, but Tully said he understands why companies use the silver screen to sell.

“The space is there for it, and if someone is going to show up a half an hour early why not throw up something there for them to watch?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.