Topic of the Day: Are Trailers Killing Movies?

by: Matthew J.R. Kohler


A couple of days ago, the new trailer for Batman v. Superman came out, and a lot of the anticipating fans were underwhelmed.  The trailer tried to put everything in there from Doomsday, to Batman and Superman fighting, and them teaming up.  As a result, a great deal of fans said that their excitement had plummeted.  Interestingly, the trailer went the extra mile by adding thirty seconds more than the average trailer (for a total of 3 minutes) to give the audience the goods.  The reception to the Batman v. Superman trailer begs the question, do trailers kill movies?

We all have seen trailers that over-hyped a movie that everyone wants to see, causing people to be overly judgmental on the film when we actually see it.  For example, one of my friends was overhyped about Dark Knight Rises.  As a result, he was thoroughly crushed when he saw that the actual movie was nowhere close to the perfect movie that he had imagined, based upon the 2-year-long endless stream of news, interviews, and trailers.  When this happens, usually a person never want to see the film again.  Yet, nowadays, trailers have their own culture, in which people literally count down until the trailer arrives online.  After two years of hype, if the trailer doesn’t stick with the audience, then less of them will go see the film.  I remember a time when trailers appeared online with little-to-no-hype.  It was during that time when trailers were just trailers.  They were very basic and didn’t give a whole lot of the plot.  They relied on the audience liking the gist of the movie, and promoting it through word-of-mouth.

Sure, times have changed and social media is a huge part of our lives.  That is why word-of-mouth should be more important now than ever.  No longer do you have to rely on your cousin Jimmy, and Uncle Steve to tell you what trailers excited them.  Social media gives us the power to have in-depth conversations with other filmmakers, or people who love spending their nights at the movies.  So why is it that nowadays less people go the theatre than ever before?  Easy, media doesn’t force it as much.  Never do I hear, “If you don’t go see this movie in theaters, then you will go to hell.”  I only ever hear, “Hey, this movie is coming out, I guess you can go see it.  Either way, be sure to share the trailer with your friends.”


The last movie that was hyped as something that the world needs to see was Avatar, as it was titled “The Best Movie Ever” in its trailers.   After a month-and-a-half of my classmates talking about the movie, I finally decided to see it in order to understand what they saw in it.  Alas, I was bored out of my mind, but that’s neither here nor there; the point is that I experienced first-hand that word-of-mouth works in selling a ticket.  Amazingly, the house was full, 6 weeks after this movie premiered.  BTW, I live in Galesburg, IL, which has a population of 30,000.  The idea that theaters aren’t worth people’s time and money, and are going out of style, is ludicrous.  Theatre attendance has been lower than its heyday because people have not been told by any marketing campaign that any non-derivative film is a must-see.  Sure, there are name-brand movies coming out all the time that are touted by critics as great fun.  But, actual convincing of audiences to see such a film is unnecessary, since the fans are most likely going to see it due to their devotion to their beloved franchise, regardless of what critics say.

Look at the blockbusters of yesterday: Indiana Jones, Terminator, Sound of Music, Gone with the Wind, and Enter the Dragon.  Would these movies be successful today?  Maybe, but 99% of blockbusters nowadays are successful mainly because of name recognition, such as The Avengers, Furious 7, and The Hobbit.  Now, as I have stated, businesses already know that the built-in fan base is going to see these movies; but would it kill the marketing team to craft an exciting trailer that fully represents what the movie is about, without spoiling anything?  I ask because, currently, studios are coming off as asinine by suggesting that I should see a movie merely because of its familiar title, and not because of its story.  Look at the difference between the trailers for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  One tries to give you a full concept of the movie and the other is clearly going through the motions by following the rhythm of every other modern trailer.  Sure, the trailer for The Lord of the Rings didn’t get me hyped to go see the film, but everyone talking about it did.  Trailers should not promise you that the movie is going to be amazing, by showing endless CGI and action, and a glut of famous characters; it should just show a sample of what makes the movie unique, and suggest that you give it a chance.


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