Movie character drinks drink in first 30 minutes of a movie: a thing?
September 4, 2014 10:33 AM   Subscribe

I can't recall where I once heard this idea, but it seems to hold true in the majority of mainstream American movies that I've seen. The idea is that during the first half hour or so of a movie, a character will drink a refreshing drink. My question is, what kind of agreement or requirement is going on behind the scenes that causes so many movies to have this feature, when it's not an obvious product placement?

If you're expecting it, you'll notice it in most movies. While the drink is often branded, (obvious product placement) it isn't always so.

Is it as simple as movie theaters wanting their patrons to go to the snack bar and spend money on high profit margin items? But this would cause annoying exit and re-entry of the theater (for snack bar and restrooms), which is disruptive. Is there something else going on here?
posted by oxisos to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
I don't think this is actually a thing. Can you give some examples that have led you to believe it is a common occurrence?
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:38 AM on September 4, 2014

It's the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, i.e., confirmation bias/frequency illusion. 30 minutes in a movie is a pretty long time, and more than enough to show a character enjoying a meal or a drink.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:40 AM on September 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

Movie theaters don't make movies. Hollywood doesn't keep secrets very well. If this were a real thing, we would know.
posted by acidic at 10:46 AM on September 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Movies are about people and people have to drink a lot of fluids. I don't really think there's anything more to it than that.
posted by empath at 10:48 AM on September 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

At one point the studios did own their own theaters, but US vs Paramount (1948) resulted in the end of that system.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:58 AM on September 4, 2014

The beginning of a movie has to introduce characters and show what they're like. Eating and drinking could be a common way of portraying a character and if done right can reveal a lot. Also, food can make a scene more interesting and give actors something to do. Some directors really like having characters smoke because the way the actor integrates that prop can make a scene more interesting while someone is filling in some details through exposition. Do you want people to just sit there talking and not doing anything?
posted by Green With You at 11:00 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was just going to say what Green With You said. I think it's just an easy way to get the plot moving and characters talking to each other. We need to get introduced to the characters and their lives. These kinds of occasions typically occur with food and/or drinks involved.
posted by bleep at 11:02 AM on September 4, 2014

If you're expecting it, you'll notice it in most movies.

Absolutely seconding that it's confirmation bias and regular human behavior. If you're expecting it you can see within the first thirty minutes of a movie -- which is something like 25-35% the length of an average movie -- a character getting into a car as well. Sometimes it's a branded car, sometimes it's not. The product placement happens because the thing is an expected regular people thing, not the other way around.
posted by griphus at 11:07 AM on September 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think product placement could be responsible for a few percentage points.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:27 AM on September 4, 2014

2nd that eating/drinking scenes, which always feature conversations, are ways to get in the characters' back stories and motivations ("How's your husband/ex/job/son"; "What's wrong?"; "What are you going to do about x", etc.). Best to do that early.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:35 AM on September 4, 2014

It may very well be that studios are placing product that way along with many other ways, but the studios give no shits about any aspect of theater operation, and theaters have zero say in how films are made.

Product placement in films is so Pepsi pays money to the studio before/as the film is made, offsetting cost of production, for Attractive Film Hero Man to drink a Pepsi on screen. You buying a Pepsi in the theater is nice for Pepsi (and is part of why they do it) and for the theater (who makes all their money on concessions), but the studio already got their check, they don't care.

And theaters don't care if you get up during the movie, to spend money or otherwise. They'd still have intermissions if the studios/distributors let them, just for more sales opportunities. Hell, they'd probably stop the move six times to run ads if the studios let them.

So basically there IS product placement in films and theaters DO want you to spend money, but those two things are not any sort of conspiracy as neither of them is interested in doing the other any favors. I'd certainly say most films have a brand-recognizable car in the first 30 minutes, but I don't think there's any specific thing going on with drinks. If anything, Pepsi wants you to pick up a 12-pack on the way home - today and every day - so placement closer to the end would make more sense if this was calculated in any direct way besides "Attractive Film Hero Man drinks Pepsi and I want to be/have sex with Attractive Film Hero Man, therefore I will also use Pepsi products."
posted by Lyn Never at 11:36 AM on September 4, 2014

Wish I could provide examples, but I don't remember because the scenes are usually so fleeting and insignificant. I am starting to agree that confirmation bias is playing a large part in my theory.
posted by oxisos at 12:10 PM on September 4, 2014

When a brand of any kind is prominently displayed, it's almost certainly paid product placement (even companies like Apple that refuse to pay cash for placement give away products to the producers).
posted by empath at 2:01 PM on September 4, 2014

my guess is that if you have people standing around and talking in a movie they need to be doing something. fifty years ago they'd be smoking and now they do their expository dialogue over a drink.
posted by noloveforned at 2:41 PM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've read some older screenwriting books that say characters should be doing something during dialog scenes, both for establishing mannerisms and providing some visual interest. Drinking would seem to be a common-enough activity, and unlike eating, it doesn't require actors to stuff themselves or spit out their food after every take.
posted by bibliowench at 3:53 PM on September 4, 2014

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