Last week, I wrote about a peculiar print ad for the horror film Cry Wolf. At the bottom of the ad for the low-budget thriller, being put out by a subsidiary of General Electric's (NYSE:GE) Universal Studios, was a one-line promo for an unrated version of Unleashed being released on Oct. 11.

I misread the pitch. I thought it meant that the studio was unleashing a more potent version of Cry Wolf to the retail market in a few weeks. In fact, it was promoting the home video release of Jet Li's Unleashed.


My journalistic blunder notwithstanding, that's still a pretty outlandish marketing move. Movie theaters are having a hard enough time filling their seats, and now the studios are using their ads in the newspaper movie listings to promote upcoming DVD releases? I'm used to movie ads promoting that film's soundtracks or websites. That makes sense. But giving moviegoers a reason to stay home a month later with a new DVD is just mean. Sure, the studio buys the ad space, so it has the right to do whatever it wants. It just doesn't seem fair to the already struggling multiplex operators.

Then again, stretching the limits of good taste in advertising seems to be contagious. I can't be the only one frustrated at the growing barrage of ads on the big screen in addition to the already long slew of preview trailers. It's become an epidemic lately. Even ads that ask folks to turn off their cell phones have a corporate sponsor, Best Buy (NYSE:BBY).

Could that be just one more factor that's driving away audiences for the third year in a row now? Theater chains have turned to advertising as a way to offset a slump in ticket sales. AMC and Regal have even teamed up to offer smaller operators the ability to broadcast their ads for a piece of the action.

This comes at a time when the growing popularity of Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) should have taught the entertainment industry that we don't enjoy ads if they are intrusive and time-consuming.

Let the sponsors earn their way into the hearts of moviegoers in other ways. Let them sponsor validated parking. Let them sponsor concession discounts. Associate the brand with a generous gesture -- not the thievery of time.

I've apologized for my mistake. It's time for the multiplexes to do the same.

Best Buy, Netflix, and TiVo are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz now prefers to show up past the slated start times -- but only when he knows the theater won't be crowded. He owns shares in Netflix. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy .