Movie trailers are not a modern phenomenon. Almost as old as moving pictures themselves, these distilled tasters of the next blockbuster, usually containing a précis of the best lines and best scenes – without spoiling the end, obviously! – are tailored to a captive cinema audience, already well-disposed to the movie-going experience.
Those first movie trailers were generally shown at the end of the main feature, and often generally went unnoticed, as the cinema goers tended to leave the theatre as soon as the film had finished. Although film clips to promote upcoming serial instalments predate the first generally accepted trailer in 1913, it was actually rehearsal footage for an upcoming Broadway musical – The Pleasure Seekers – rather than for a film.
When the same principle was used for a Charlie Chaplin film the following year, movie trailers proper were born. With accompanying advances in film technology, cinemas jumped at the chance to put out short tasters of upcoming attractions. And by 1919, Paramount Studios even had their own movie trailers division, whose exclusive function was the promotion of upcoming releases.
By the middle of the twentieth century, it could be argued that the movie trailers were often more memorable than the films they were advertising. Some, such as the preview for “Fantastic Voyage” in the 1960s, almost gave away too many details about the film, utilising many of the most spectacular scenes. However, in 1982, an understated little movie trailer became famous for precisely what it didn’t show – it was for E.T. – and the little alien didn’t appear, thus admirably building excitement for the film itself.
As movie trailers are often crafted long before the final edit of the main feature is complete, it has been known for scenes to appear in movie trailers which then never reach the cinema screen. The most poignant recent example is the trailer for 2002’s “Spider-Man” blockbuster – an elaborate action sequence involves a web spun between the towers of the World Trade Centre. After the tragic events of September 2001, this scene was excised from the film, and the trailer pulled from theatres.
Nowadays, many people watch movie trailers online to choose from the vast variety of upcoming of movies those, that they want to go and see in teh cinemas. The future of the movie trailer is an exciting and unpredictable one – as we live our lives in an evermore on-the-go way, with increasingly sophisticated technology to assist us, it’s likely that movie trailers will go down an increasingly viral route – a far cry from a trailer on a screen.