LOS ANGELES -- Advertisers seeking new ways to reach moviegoers are moving away from on-screen pitches and hiring movie theaters to hand out free samples of their products, including candy, popcorn and other goodies.
United Artists, the nation's largest movie chain with 2,500 screens, distributed PB Max candy bars this month to its Los Angeles theater patrons.
UA also planned to give Dallas moviegoers free boxes of Smart Foods popcorn.
Cineplex Odeon, the second largest chain with 1,690 screens, says it's giving patrons packs of sugar-free Dentyne chewing gum and samples of men's cologne after the movie has ended, said Howard Lichtman, executive vice president of marketing.
"If someone doesn't like a product, we don't want them leaving it on the floor," Lichtman said.
Marketing experts believe audiences will like the idea.
"People love free samples," said Susan Small-Weil, a specialist in consumer behavior at New York-based ad agency Warwick, Baker & Fiore. "In this case, advertising isn't an uninvited guest."
Both UA and Cineplex hope freebies will boost ad revenue lost earlier this year when Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. studios banned on-screen advertising at theaters that show their movies.
"The reduction of on-screen advertising is going to hurt us," said Cathy Kasberg, UA's promotions and marketing director. "Hopefully, this can give us another avenue for income."