Yesterday, while watching Fox’s late football game, I heard one of the announcers touting the premiere of The Simpsons movie trailer later that night. I missed The Simpsons trailer, but I did catch the big Spider-Man 3 trailer premiere on CBS between episodes of CSI and Shark three days before.
Trailer premieres are becoming almost as big as the film launches themselves.
While trailers are almost as old as movies themselves, the unbridled anticipation of them is a relatively recent phenomenon. What once was edited from alternate takes and cut scenes, throw-away footage often lost to posterity immediately after the film begin marketed was released, has become an art-form of its own. Apple has a huge collection of them on the Quicktime portion of its website, trailers are the most likely ads actually to be watched by someone ad-skipping with TiVo, and if anything is likely to be a special feature on a DVD, it is the film’s trailer.
Why this fascination with something little more than a glorified commercial?
Although the quality of trailers had been increasing for quite some time, the first film I recall this phenomenon existing for was Star Wars Episode I, where anticipation of the film was so high that any inkling of what might be to come was valued like gold. Even though few films ever have that level of expectancy, it must have been proof-positive to the studios that, if done right, marketing itself can become a commodity of sorts. You may not be able to sell it, but how much more will the consumers want the final product if they want the promotion itself first? And trailers are a perfect bite-size for our sound-bite MTV generation to seek their teeth into.
Nobody knows better how to monetize their products than the Hollywood studios. What next? Trailers for trailers? Wait, I think we may already have those. Almost. Teaser used to be short trailers. Now they build anticipation for the full-length trailers as well as the film itself.
The lines continually blur.