Movie trailers. We love them. The internet loves to spread them. Filmgoers and geeks obsess over them. They are everywhere and only continue to grow in popularity. Those 1-3 minutes of rapidly edited footage can determine our entire impression of an upcoming film a few months to a year before its release. Some even race to the theater early to ensure their viewing of the coming attractions before seeing the film printed on their ticket. Whether you’re a film buff or a casual viewer, everyone becomes a movie critic after each trailer comes to a close. You may find yourself commonly whispering to your friend sitting nearby a consensus along the lines of “I want to see that, it looks good” or “Who in their right mind would pay to see that?”
However, if it is a film that has been on your radar for a while, chances are you already saw it on YouTube the day it was uploaded. Seeing a movie in the theaters isn’t cheap. If you are going to pay 10-15 bucks for 2 hours of big screen entertainment, you want to receive your money’s worth. That is where the trailer can come in to either assure or dissuade your interest in a certain title.
Before the internet (also known as the Stone Age), movie trailers were only available in theatrical screenings. Film promotion relied heavily on print media coverage and widely-released previews. Being a film critic isn’t anything new. Moviegoers have been whispering the same things to their friends for generations, but trailers had a lot more pressure set upon them. You see it once per ticket purchase in the theater, and that’s it. So a lasting impression was something to strive for. Nowadays, we can re-watch a trailer online to the point where it grows on us and peaks interest. Back then, trailers had to sell a movie based off of a few viewings.
But with trailers oftentimes hitting the web before hitting the screens, they have become a far more commonplace form of promotion. And with the internet’s love of harsh criticism, people may feel the need to trash a film before the release date. The biggest example of this occurrence in recent years is 2016’s controversial remake of Ghostbusters. The trailer for the film received more dislikes online than it did the good ol’ thumbs up. Add the widespread hatred of the trailer by fans of the original and mix that with overtly sexist claims concerning the gender-swapped leads and you get the reasoning behind the financial failure of the remake. The critics gave it fairly positive reviews, but it’s the impression from the trailer that kept audiences from paying to see it.
Updated pop cultural news articles online are seen by more eyes than a weekly/monthly magazine subscription intended for niche audiences. With cinema news being far more in-depth and assessable than it has been in generations past, audiences are consistently looking for the next big reveal. Once a moviegoer or hardcore fan find out the title, cast and release date of an upcoming movie, they immediately want pictures and footage to go along with it. So the excitement for a trailer is far greater because it grows from the abundance of information available at our finger tips.
The trailer that every fanboy and fangirl (myself included) has been dying to see as of late would be this December’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Although Disney has been cleverly keeping this film under wraps with no single photo or piece of footage in site at this time, they are also building the massive excitement for this movie by choosing to avoid revealing too much with a simple trailer. A common issue for blockbuster trailers is the disclosure of pivotal plot points that may ruin the experience. Disney has done a wonderful job in recent years of perfectly utilizing their Star Wars trailers as a tool to gradually reveal the tone and look of the movie without much of a plot or stream of events coming with it. But because months go by without the trailer for this next chapter, widespread online speculation occurs over when this trailer will finally be released. We are at the point where we are sometimes speculating unreleased trailers more than the actual film itself.
Because the anticipation for these random slices of early footage has grown at an alarming rate, we now have teasers for teasers and trailers for trailers. Seriously, that’s a thing now. The day before a trailer comes out, a few seconds of footage is used to promote the release of a video intended to promote the release of a movie. It’s crazy! It doesn’t seem like that long ago when we would just watch these things in the theater or surprisingly see them show up online without warning. But why be genuinely surprised when we can have a teaser promo for a teaser trailer that will tease us into buying a ticket come opening weekend?
So as we gear up for our summer season of million-dollar blockbusters, be ready for the inevitable bombardment of trailers and the news surrounding these trailers. Promoting movies is a whole different and digital ballgame now. If the trailer marketing for a single film can’t keep up with the competitors, then the box office return might leave a lot to be desired regardless of quality. Guaranteed money-making hits aside, movies heavily rely on that initial impression. If that trailer comes too late or does little to impress, then a good film could get thrown to the wayside (sorry 2012’s Dredd). This is the digital age and we want it now.