Cape Town – The YouTube trailer is killing the movie star.
Ever walked out of a movie thinking: The trailer was so much better than the movie?!
Well, you’re not the only one. Trailers are quickly becoming kryptonite to the movie industry’s biggest blockbusters – even bringing Superman to his knees.
Used as an advertisement to get moviegoers to go watch a film, trailers have changed a lot over the years.
The birth of the trailer
According to an article published in the Los Angeles Times on 25 October 1966, one of the first trailers was shown after an episode of The Adventures of Kathlyn, an American motion picture serial, during a screening at a New York amusement park in 1913.
The teaser, that aired after the credits had rolled, teased the audience about what to expect in the next episode. From there the word "trailer" sprouted, referring to footage trailing at the end of the film.
However the big studios soon realised people were leaving the cinema as soon as the end credits started rolling and the "trailers" were quickly moved to show before the film starts – a tradition that exists even to this day.
The trailer was supposed to entice the viewer to watch the film, but these days it has become a sort of condensed version of the film – a highlights reel of the best moments from the movie. In fact trailers are becoming so good that it is almost impossible for the full motion picture to live up to its mini-version.
A trailer for the trailer
Another emerging trend in recent years is the teaser trailer.
Basically a trailer for the trailer. The teaser trailer reveals very little information and is used to create interest in the upcoming trailer. In some instances, like with Superman and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the teaser trailers are released almost two years before the film finally hits cinemas – creating a hype spanning over nearly 730 days.
The teaser trailers and full trailers are accompanied by posters, featurettes, behind-the-scenes footage, high-profile interviews, exclusive sneak peeks and every other possible form of marketing. By the time the movie is finally on the big screen very little is left to reveal.
This year alone three big blockbuster movies have fallen victim to their own hype. Batman VS Superman, the newly revamped Ghostbusters and the long-awaited Suicide Squad opened to poor reviews and bad box office numbers.
The films we waited for almost two years never came. Instead we were left with dragged out longer versions of the trailer. The years of promotional material had created a hype and expectation so big that no film, no matter how impressive, could possibly deliver what the audience had now come to expect. Ultimately the film you’ve seen in the trailers just never materialised on the big screen.
No surprises here
Suicide Squad is a great example of “how much is too much”. So much of the movie had been shared beforehand that almost every scene featuring The Joker (played by Jared Leto) can be found on the internet in some shape or form. There are no surprises and nothing left to explore. The movie’s hype made it look like a hilarious, punchy, Deadpoolish flick – which it doesn’t even come close to.
Some movie critics are so serious about the dangers of creating expectations by watching movie trailers that they don’t watch them at all before going to review a film – resulting in lots of unexpected moments and surprises that are an integral part of the movie-going experience.
A recent example of how the lack of expectations and promotional material actually helped the project succeed is the Netflix series, Stranger Things.
Undoubtedly the breakout show of the year, the series had no hype, promos or marketing before its launch on the American streaming service.
The hype wasn’t generated by a marketing company or big advertising campaigns; instead it was word-of-mouth that saw the show quickly become a favourite with fans across the world.
If you want to avoid spoilers, be surprised in cinema and go into a movie without any expectations – avoid the trailer.
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