Why Is the Regal Cinemas Pre-Movie Ad So Unbearably Awful?

The Big Picture

  • The Regal Cinemas pre-movie ad is poorly conceived, using generic movie quotes that don’t apply to the theater experience.
  • The ad lacks authenticity, with awkward interactions and broad acting that make the characters seem unnatural.
  • The ad focuses heavily on promoting the Regal Cinemas app and other products, making it obvious that it is just a commercial rather than a creative cinematic experience.

When you go to see a film at a major movie theater chain, you expect to see a few comforting fixtures. The popcorn machine at the concession stand will always be bubbling with fresh popcorn, for instance, or that one Terminator: Salvation arcade game will be flashing its lights in the corner of the lobby, beckoning somebody to give it a spin. Then there are the fixtures you get when you’re seated for the feature presentation. If you go to Cinemark, AMC, Regal, Alamo Drafthouse, or other major moviegoing chains, you know there are always little segments in between the trailers and the actual film. These segments are usually designed to urge people to sign up for reward programs or to turn off their cell phones. If you go to enough features on the big screen, these segments and their short simple phrasing can become easily imitable.

My friends and I spent way too much of our teenage years mimicking an early 2010s Cinemark ad that reminded people that “OMG and LMAO on a bright little screen in a dark movie theater DISRUPTS THOSE AROUND YOU.” The delivery of “BECAUSE WE WILL” in that advertisement will haunt me until my dying days. More famously, that Nicole Kidman AMC ad became a viral sensation. Its goofy yet endearing ode to the theatrical experience (“heartbreak feels good in a place like this!”) became the fixture of equally enjoyable memes, including one where it was recited in its entirety by a variety of celebrities. But there is a dark side to these kinds of in-theater pre-movie vignettes. They can be as charming as the Nicole Kidman AMC ad…or they can be as irritating and shockingly awful as the current (as of this writing) infamous Regal Cinemas pre-movie promo.

A Regal Cinemas patron quotes The Hangover
Image via Regal Cinemas

It’s difficult to exactly pinpoint when the Regal Cinemas commercial, entitled Great Movie Lines Live Here!, started playing in movie theaters. However, comments from Reddit and the fact that this video was uploaded to the YouTube page of actor Alberto Kuo (who appeared in this commercial) in June 2022 indicate that early summer 2022 is when this promo began to pester Regal Cinemas moviegoers. That timing is important to consider because that means it arrived well after the Nicole Kidman AMC ad began airing in September 2021 and even in the aftermath of that commercial becoming a viral sensation. The timing of this Regal Cinemas promo, its reliance on constant references to famous movies, and even its celebrity camera (via Danny Trejo) all suggest that this commercial was built from the ground up to imitate the short that gave the world “heartbreak feels good in a place like this.”

Great Movie Lines Live Here! runs one minute in length and begins with two moviegoers walking through the front doors of a Regal Cinema, with one-half of the duo announcing “This is where it’s all happening.” Her companion then proclaims “this place is nicer than my apartment!” before doing an impression of Eddie Murphy’s laugh. This sets the stage for all the dialogue in this promo: all movie quotes, all the time. From there, the ad follows a variety of different people navigating specific movie theater scenarios (like spilling popcorn on oneself or trying to get seats in an auditorium), all while delivering a variety of movie quotes like “she’s beauty and she’s grace” or “so you’re saying there’s a chance?”

After a brief cut to Danny Trejo complaining about his Pepsi beverage, the camera cuts to a Regal employee standing in front of a blank movie theater screen proclaiming “this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” before the slogan “great movie lines live here” pops up on-screen. It’s a torturous thing to watch just once or twice on YouTube, let alone as an inescapable certainty in theatrical moviegoing experiences.

What Are The Biggest Problems With This Regal Cinemas Pre-Movie Ad?

Regal Cinemas Commercial
Image via Regal Cinemas

It’s truly astonishing not just how ill-conceived this Regal Cinemas ad is in every regard, but how it makes your skin crawl right from the get-go. Choosing to kick off your ad with a line from Almost Famous that isn’t even close to being the most famous or quotable line from that feature (“I am a golden God” FTW) is already a puzzling choice. It’s especially baffling since the line itself, divorced from context, doesn’t really seem to scream “this comes from the movies” or apply to walking into a Regal Cinemas. The stilted regurgitation of the “don’t call me, Shirley” bit from Airplane (which has been parodied to death) immediately afterward will make you instantly wish this promo would go back to referencing obscure Cameron Crowe lines.

As the ad progresses, it becomes clearer and clearer that one of the many problems with this promo is how nobody in it seems to act like a human being. This commercial so badly wants everyone in it to come off as naturalistic and organically chummy as a way to show off Regal Cinemas as being a great social hotspot. However, the awkward interactions between the trio of friends in the “she is beauty, she is grace” moment don’t suggest any sort of bond or connection between the members of the group. That’s especially odd because quoting movies or other pop culture properties can be a great way for friends to bond. However, those bonding quotes tend to involve friends saying movie quotes together or simulating banter from a specific single feature. Such interactions rarely involve responding to an uber-generic film line with another totally separate movie line like two people are Daniel Craig and Heidi Gardner in that one Saturday Night Live sketch.

RELATED: Martin Scorsese Urges Theaters to Invest in the “Future of the Cinematic Experience”

The total lack of understanding of how people actually use movie quotes to connect to others or even just how human beings interact with one another gives an eerie alien quality to this Regal Cinemas pre-movie promo. It’s a bunch of people channeling Edgar the bug from the first Men in Black, organisms trying to mimic what people act like but never coming close to the real thing. Worse, the editing in this commercial is atrocious. There are awkward gaps between the various conversations that add nothing to the promo as a whole and only accentuate the awkwardness of the proceedings. Compare the slipshod timing and editing of this commercial to this 2018 Cinemark ad that has various movie theater patrons finishing each other’s sentences. There’s a rapid-fire nature to the editing that keeps the commercial engaging and makes it mildly amusing to see what inexplicable phrases will abruptly overhaul phrases like “world’s largest deposit of…”

That sense of timing is absent from the Regal Cinemas pre-show ad, as is any semblance of remarkable comedy. The promo keeps shoveling out random references to famous movies (like the “fanny pack” line from The Hangover) with minimal consideration to whether or not they apply to the social interaction they inhabit. None of it registers so much as a chuckle, especially since the actors have been directed to deliver their lines in such an aggravatingly broad manner. It doesn’t help that there are such a limited type of movies quoted here. Why is everyone imitating famous comedy or 80s movie lines like they’re fratboys quoting Anchorman circa. 2006? It’s such an unpleasant style of acting and movie quotes to be trapped with for 60 seconds. Worse, the promo as a whole doesn’t do much to emphasize why the theatrical experience is so much fun or special. If anything, it makes the idea of going out and interacting with people like the one in this promo a terrifying prospect one should avoid at all costs.

The Regal Cinema Pre-Movie Ad is Too Obviously a Commercial

Image via Annamaria Ward

Arguably the greatest sin of this torturous Regal Cinemas pre-movie ad, though, is how blatantly it functions as a commercial. Part of why the Nicole Kidman AMC promo took off was because Kidman’s dialogue in the ad worked so well even when divorced from the context of AMC Theatres. Her lines about “heartbreak” could be applicable to any theatrical experience anywhere in the world. While the ad briefly shows footage from pre-existing movies like Creed and La La Land, most of this promo is focused on original footage and is exclusively comprised of newly-created dialogue. In striving to make something new that didn’t just beat people over the head with the AMC logo, cinematic magic was crafted.

By contrast, the Regal Cinemas pre-movie ad awkwardly focuses a large portion of the short on the Regal Cinemas app and how it can give you concessions discounts while the Danny Trejo portion of the promo is just a Pepsi ad. That’s it, it’s just a reminder to people that the “obscure” brand Pepsi exists. This particular piece of filmmaking was already a flawed work of art thanks to its clumsy editing and cringe-inducing writing, but the rampant reminders that audiences are watching an advertisement are especially disappointing. There’s no love for cinema or the big screen oozing out of this ad. Just logos for products and reminders that popular movies certainly do exist.

Nobody is out here saying that pre-movie ads at movie theaters are all going to be artistic masterpieces or even on par with the joys of that Nicole Kidman AMC promo. But at least other pre-movie ads, like that silent Front Row Joe short from the 2000s, are much less egregious to sit through repeatedly. They have some sort of pomp and circumstance to them, even just hinting at grandeur that conjures up traces of excitement for the theatrical event ahead. Even those irritating overly cutesy AMC Theatres pre-show segments involving anthropomorphized little red dots from the early 2010s were better than this Regal Cinemas pre-movie ad. At least those AMC bumpers had a sense of scope to them and were objectively polished in terms of editing and sound mixing. The fact that this recent Regal Cinemas ad has got me expressing gratitude for the positive aspects of the previous nadir of pre-theater bumpers really says so much.

Just because something can be bad or is, at its core, cynical doesn’t mean it has to be bad. At their best, pre-movie promos at the theaters can be an exciting ritual that inspires quotes shared by friends even after the promo itself is long retired from usage. The Nicole Kidman AMC ad exemplified this by taking the notion of reminding audiences that AMC still existed in the wake of the pandemic and turning it into an endearingly dorky love letter to the joys of movie theaters. By contrast, that obnoxious Regal Cinemas ad represented total cynicism and laziness, not to mention truly baffling line deliveries. Let’s all take a moment to salute regular Regal Cinemas attendees who are forced to sit through this monstrosity week in and week out. Their endurance is as remarkable as this Regal Cinemas ad is abysmal.

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