The Executive Board of Directors of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has adopted a guide to standardize in-theater marketing materials with the goal of driving movie ticket sales and creating a better moviegoing experience. The guidelines include direction on lead time and opening dates for in-theater marketing materials in addition to standardizing trailer length and placement on current features. The guide also outlines various guest engagement methods in trailers versus printed lobby materials, such as posters and standees. In an era of fast-changing technology, these guidelines can be expected to evolve. Individual company policies may vary.

These guidelines affect any advertising campaigns for movies scheduled for domestic release on or after 1 October 2014.


  • All marketing materials (trailers, printed materials, standees, digital posters, clings, display cases, mobiles, and all other in-theater advertising) should include the targeted theatrical release date of the film/event once the release date has been set.
  • Cinemas will advertise a wide release film/event no sooner than 150 days with trailers and 120 days on all other marketing materials before its theatrical release date.  Two exemptions per year per distributor (exemptions are granted per title and not per marketing material), based on theatrical release date.  Advance notification of the intended use of an exemption must be given to NATO via [email protected].


All film marketing promotions and events (including project pictures and special screenings) require exhibitor home office approval.  Please refer to individual exhibitor policies regarding approval, insurance, participation, etc.


  • Negotiations of marketing materials will be coordinated between the distributor and the exhibitor’s home office.
  • Installation of marketing materials will be coordinated between the installer and theater management. 


Two-Minute Trailer Length Limit

  • Trailers shall not exceed two minutes in length. Two exemptions per year per distributor, with a maximum length of 3 minutes, based on the theatrical release date of the film being advertised.
  • Advance notification of the intended use of an exemption must be given to NATO via [email protected].
  • Any on-screen marketing materials that are considered special content (behind-the-scenes footage, sizzle reels, extended looks, etc.) must be negotiated with individual exhibitors.

Trailer Placement

  • Exhibitors will only place trailers with content appropriate for the particular feature (expands on ratings match currently in place).  NATO encourages its members to follow the MPAA trailer placement advisories and NATO coordinates with MPAA on a regular basis to communicate this information in a timely manner.
  • No third party brands/endorsements (video games, television shows, etc.) are to be embedded.  On-screen marketing materials should be thematic to the feature.
  • Trailers, whether attached or not, are played in theaters at the discretion of each theater chain or individual theater owner. (See MPAA Marketing Administration guidelines.)

Trailer Standards

  • Industry standard trailer ID/naming convention is to be used by the distributor in order to facilitate programming/playlist assembly at the theater level.
  • No direct response prompts (QR codes, text-to, sound recognition, etc.) other than URLs are to be placed in/on the trailer, as they encourage mobile phone use during the show.
  • Distributors must make trailers available in both flat and scope so that exhibitors may match the trailer’s format to that of the feature.


  • Required to check in with theater management when they arrive at the theatre before starting their inspection.  They must be professional in dress and demeanor, and be respectful of the management team’s time.  Any information requested will be provided at the manager’s convenience once all guests have been handled.
  • Required to wear proper identification and have an approved letter from the distributor, or they will be asked to purchase a ticket.
  • May not in any way affect the guest experience, cannot take up a seat in the auditorium, and cannot interact with guests.  Once their official duty has been completed, they must leave the auditorium (they may not watch the film/event).  Film checkers and auditors violating these rules will be asked to leave the complex.


NATO In-Theater Marketing Guidelines 1.7.14