Much ado about Movie Trailers

Everyone is crazy about “trailers”

Recently, I’ve been hearing rumors that a preview for the still untitled “Indiana Jones 5” movie – scheduled to be released June 2023 – will be released soon.  This rumor has got me thinking, once again, why everyone makes such a big deal about movie previews which are often called “trailers”.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like watching a trailer as much as anyone.  Trailers are very useful if you’re wondering about an upcoming movie.  I almost always check out new trailers released online.  However, I don’t go crazy about it.  I usually watch it only once.  Sometimes, if it’s a good trailer, I’ll let other friends know that they can watch the trailer online.

Almost everyone else seems to make a new trailer release a big deal.  Some entertainment news websites have an article about a new trailer.  If the movie is big enough, they might even show a couple scenes of the trailer on television shows.

Before the internet existed, a new trailer for a big movie was even bigger news on television because it’s the only place you can see it other than a movie theater.  Entertainment shows would promote the “big reveal” of a new movie trailer. I remember the “Siskel and Ebert” movie review TV show once spent a few minutes discussing the new “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” trailer.  They spent as much time discussing a 2-minute trailer as a 2-HOUR movie.

Also, before the internet, newspaper advertisements and commercials would sometimes say if a new trailer was playing before a movie because they knew that some fans would buy a ticket for the movie, watch the trailer, and then leave before the movie started.  They would buy a ticket to a movie just to watch a 2-minute trailer of an upcoming film.

I classify trailers into 3 different categories.  The first is the “teaser” trailer.  When a movie isn’t coming out for a LONG time.  For example: The trailer for “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” that you might have seen this past summer playing with “Top Gun Maverick”.  The teaser trailer usually only shows quick shots of the movie.  A little bit of dialogue.  Basically, just letting you know the movie will be coming out in the distant future.  

The second I call the “good” trailer.  It tells you enough about the storyline to let you decide if you want to see the movie or not.  Sometimes it will convince you to see a movie you didn’t know much about before.  Other times it may make you decide NOT to see the movie.

The third is the “bad” trailer.  It basically tells you the whole plot of the movie.  Sometimes it shows the best scenes or the best jokes in the movie.  There has even been trailers that show scenes that aren’t in the movie.  Usually, a “bad” trailer tells me it will be a terrible movie.

No matter what type of trailer is released, fans will watch trailers online repeatedly. They examine dialogue and screenshots to find previously unknown details about the movie.  They’ll post clips or screenshots of the trailer on social media – although you can often find the full trailer on social media too.  Even if their posts on social media are negative it’s still promoting the movie.  Other people might watch the trailer because of the negative posts.

Something else I don’t understand.  Trailers are just advertisements.  They’re just another way to promote an upcoming movie.  They’re the same as a commercial, or a billboard, or a poster advertising a movie.  I know that the trailer is reviewed by the MPAA for approval before they’re shown in movie theaters, but that’s nothing special.  These days there are occasionally an unapproved “unrated” trailer online.  Also, more people are watching trailers online than in a movie theater.  Some new trailers are watched millions of times online.  

However, the scheduled start time of a movie in a movie theater is hardly ever the time the actual movie starts.  It’s usually the time the trailers start playing.  Most movie theaters show a bunch of advertisements before the scheduled start time – including advertisements for upcoming movies – and then at the scheduled start time they show trailers – which means more advertisements.  At some theaters there are multiple trailers that can play for up to 30 minutes AFTER the scheduled start time of the movie.  That means you’re waiting for up to 30 minutes to see the movie you came to the movie theater to see.  That’s a long time to wait considering people complain about the 2 or 3 minutes of commercials that play before you watch a video or stream a movie online.  

If the movie you’re going to see has a run time of 2 hours.  You should add 10 – 20 minutes to that time to understand the full time you’ll be in the movie theater if you arrive on time.  It turns a 2-and-a-half-hour movie into a 3-hour movie.  Even movie theaters that promote that they don’t show advertisements before a movie still show movie trailers.

There’s also something else I recently noticed.  If you’re a member of the AMC Theatres “Stubs” program and you buy tickets for a movie on the AMC app or website, after you watch the movie you can go back to the website and see the list of trailers that played before the movie.  I know this because I’ve recently seen movies at an AMC theatre, and I can tell you exactly which trailers played before the movie.  They’re all listed on the AMC website.  I can even rewatch all the trailers if I’d like.

Trailers are so popular there are now “trailers” online for TV shows, podcasts, online videos, and even books.  You can even find fake trailers that show things that they hope will be made soon such as “deep fake” trailers where they replace someone’s face with someone else’s face.

I’m sure the trailer for “Indiana Jones 5” will be available soon.  I’m sure it will be just a teaser trailer since the movie doesn’t open for another 6 months but you’ll still see news about the new trailer everywhere you look online and there will be people examining every moment of it.  Then there will be a trailer for another movie after that – maybe the trailer for the next “Fast and Furious” movie coming next summer – then a trailer for another movie after that, then a 2nd trailer for “Indiana Jones 5”, and on and on.

By the way, they call them “trailers” because, at first, they played AFTER the movie.  So, they trailed the movie.