An epic history of the movie trailer
June 22, 2015 2:09 PM   Subscribe

"The spirit of the 60s lives in these trailers, leaning hard on mood and music, not plot. The same is true for the Godfather trailer, as Coppola gives audiences a peak into the Corleone family.

However, the closer Hollywood gets to the age of the blockbuster, the more the modern trailer starts to reveal itself, and it all starts with Jaws -- the film phenomenon of the summer of 1975. [ ... ] It introduced something new to trailers: relying almost entirely on the narrative of the film to advertise it. In 3 minutes and 21 seconds, the entire story arc of the film, save for the ending, is given away. There’s a shark terrorizing the beach on the 4th of July, it’s up to a local sheriff to take care of it, and he teams with a scientist and a fisherman to get the job done.
-- An epic history of the movie trailer, by Matthew Schimkowitz
posted by Room 641-A (16 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Needs the "In a world..." tag.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:20 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think the mini-movie trailer works so well because as human beings we generally like to minimize uncertainty and pain and maximize certainty and pleasure. The mini movie trailer gives us a familiar and relatable structure that makes it easier to predict how enjoyable our future experience of the actual movie might be. If given the choice between two movies where one is familiar and promises a reasonable level of enjoyment and the other movie's unfamiliarity could result in either an incredibly great or bad experience, most of us would pick the former movie. I think the same principle explains why some people always eat the same salami pizza or read the same type of crime novel. Maybe this also explains why we - secretly! - love spoilers.

Most of us simply don't want to be challenged, to risk dissatisfaction, (financial or emotional) loss or a negative state of mind even if the rewards could potentially be great.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:38 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

The trailers that have stuck with me through the years:

Psycho (linked in the article)
Dark City
Alien (linked in the article)
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (teaser with no footage that made it into the final feature)
Buffalo '66
Panic Room
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The Matrix (1998 teaser that tells you pretty much nothing about the movie other than Keanu Reeves is in it and it's set in 1999)

I had saved a bunch of others from that brief period where storage was cheap enough for trailers but not for entire movies. Luckily enough they survived in some form on my hard drive! I looked through them just now to see if any were worthy of inclusion, but most of them just ripped off the ones from the article or the ones I listed above.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:44 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm surprised that the Godfather trailer shows Sollozzo getting shot and Sonny lying dead at the toll booth. Effectively shocking images to make you want to see the film but someone paying close attention could certainly recognize the settings when they first appear in the film... two of the most suspenseful scenes!
posted by solmyjuice at 3:48 PM on June 22, 2015

Booby prize for Best Worst Trailer: Payback

This teaser played like two years before the actual movie came out. It looked like a hell of a lot of fun. I was excited. If you had told me then it was an adaptation of the super-bleak novel The Hunter, I wouldn't have believed you. It's almost like one of those trailers where Sleepless in Seattle gets re-cut into a psychological thriller, or where The Shining is recut into a heartwarming comedy... except for real.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:56 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Coppola gives audiences a peak into the Corleone family

I assume that refers to the Paramount logo
posted by Ratio at 4:00 PM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Or for those displeased with the spoilers (Sonny dead at the toll booth, etc.), a pique.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:34 PM on June 22, 2015

Folks complain about "*spoilers*" but then prefer to revisit the myth/fairytale/ghost story over and over. If you love being scared sitting around a campfire listening to the story of (deep voice) the hook, how many have never heard that story ever? Disappointed at the familiarity of West Side Story? Don't think so. Folks want to know the story. A teensy bit of variation is all that is tolerated. We need to know ahead of time when to be shocked/surprised. When to expect to have a tear well up. It's communal ritual. A tribal experience.
posted by sammyo at 6:10 PM on June 22, 2015

Folks want to know the story

I think you used "Folks" where you meant to put "I".
posted by sideshow at 6:54 PM on June 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

Robert Zemeckis intentionally puts spoilers in his trailers. He gets away with it most of the time—how many people watched Cast Away to see if Tom Hanks got back to land?—but sometimes it backfires (What Lies Beneath).
posted by infinitewindow at 7:00 PM on June 22, 2015

He does it intentionally? Why?
posted by No-sword at 9:05 PM on June 22, 2015

Quoth Zemeckis: “We know from studying the marketing of movies, people really want to know exactly every thing that they are going to see before they go see the movie. It’s just one of those things. To me, being a movie lover and film student and a film scholar and a director, I don’t. What I relate it to is McDonald’s. The reason McDonald’s is a tremendous success is that you don’t have any surprises. You know exactly what it is going to taste like. Everybody knows the menu.”
posted by infinitewindow at 9:59 PM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

God, as much as I love the movie you can trace almost every awful thing that has happened to the movie-going landscape back to Spielberg and Jaws.

The Summer Blockbuster Action flick originated there.
Jaws first really cemented the idea that a film should be edited based on focus group feedback.
The above linked trailer style.
I don't if it was THE FIRST movie to get too many unnecessary sequels, but it must be up there.

No shit, when I look at our current landscape of special-effects-heavy largely story-less action films I feel like every one is a branch on a tree whose trunk has JAWS carved into it, even if its roots go quite a bit deeper.
posted by shmegegge at 11:21 PM on June 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

The Dr. Strangelove trailer is amazing.
posted by doctornemo at 10:17 AM on June 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Jaws first really cemented the idea that a film should be edited based on focus group feedback.

No. That was going on as far back as The Magnificent Ambersons.

I don't if it was THE FIRST movie to get too many unnecessary sequels, but it must be up there.

There have been more than 200 Tarzan movies, beginning in 1918.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:15 PM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Bloody elevator for Kubrick's The Shining is the best teaser trailer ever.
posted by ovvl at 5:09 PM on June 23, 2015

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