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Do We Still Need Movie Trailers?

This is a bit of a tricky topic to cover. Are movie trailers still necessary? The short answer is 'yes'. Movie trailers are essential to a film's marketing campaign and form a major prong in a film promotion's getting the word out there. A teaser for adoring fans to write blog posts or salivate over the details and reveals, it's become a precursor to the big superhero movie releases in recent years. While it may sell the blockbusters with a sneak peek or promise of what's to come, movie trailers also enable smaller independent releases to get the word out there about original films where there's no point of reference.

do we still need movie trailers

The problem with trailers is that they often give away too much of the story or spoil the best moments. As a film critic who often attends press screenings where there aren't any trailers, it's actually quite easy to avoid these kinds of spoilers. Watching the film trailer often sets expectations, which can add some prejudice to the actual movie-watching experience. Watching from a blank slate, you get the full extent of the vision for the film, allowing every moment to land with maximum impact value.

Often movie trailers include clips that weren't used in the final product, which can also be misleading. This can be in a bid to complete a fuller picture of the trailer's concept, simply use cutting room footage that's worth saving or to serve as a red herring by throwing the audience off in a bid to keep the film experience fresh. There are many tactics employed in the making of a trailer depending on what angle needs to be pushed or disguised. Often it's what you're not seeing that becomes most telling.

Trailers are essentially adverts, which means they're obviously going to portray the film in the best possible light. This means that whoever's cutting the trailer is going to accentuate the best moments, edit in such a way to improve comedic lines and allow the movie to put its best foot forward to create hype and instill curiousity. Much like advertising, this can result in misrepresentation, improving the sense of pacing... redirecting the actual genre territory or even making a depressing or unfunny film seem less so in order to get more people through the doors.

The proof is in watching the film and finding out how it measures up to your initial expectations based on the trailer. While it takes a while for the movie to unfold and give you a sense of its essence, there's inevitably a snapshot of how the original trailer made you feel or how it registered in terms of your excitement for the movie itself. It's already too late if you're having any misgivings as the opening credits roll and even worse if you're watching the closing credits scroll up. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were more trailers like the one from the live-action Cinderella?

A movie trailer has a number of functions. As a sampler, it's a quick way for audiences to see if they connect with the film or story beyond the point of who's starring. As an announcement, it also signals a film's imminent release in the build-up typically highlighting the date it hits cinemas or streaming platforms. Nowadays films have even been known to release the first 10 minutes of a movie as the fullest expression of their confidence, allowing the viewer to be drawn into the film without all the gimmickry and smoke-and-mirrors showmanship a trailer magician can conjure up.

While we still need them, the rise of streaming platforms has lessened the importance of a movie trailer. Having a captive audience, these services are able to do a great deal of in-house marketing without having to rely on trailers in their traditional form. Netflix's home screen will notify viewers of big release dates by pushing these films front of house. Automatically playing a scene to give subscribers the big idea, it's almost unnecessary to throw up a full-blown trailer in order to rope viewers in.

Cinemas are known for throwing up a few forthcoming attraction trailers in the build-up to the main feature. An opportunity for a range of advertising for audiences to get into movie-watching mode, it can be fun to see what else is coming to a cinema near you. Not having the luxury of being plugged into your living room, this is an opportunity for remarketing of the movie experience, enabling a full-blown sample of what they can expect without having to pay admission.

So it really comes down to the context and the eye of the beholder. For some, trailers would be better served to give a hint of what's to come rather than spilling the beans while others will relish the rush of getting a 2 minute foretaste. Your local movie house needs to hit you while you're in the dark while streaming platforms have more contact points. One thing's for sure, we're living in a time where there are so many different contact points across the media spectrum that it's sometimes difficult to know just which ones to target. Maybe physical media and things can billboards are going to be making a comeback on the crest of 3D visualisations.