Then And Now: Trailer Mania

Clone Corridor posted its own take here, but I’m going to discuss more the hype and reactions to trailers during the PT era and today rather than content.

It’s hard to pin down what exactly was the first “event” trailer but I’d have to say on a smaller level, it was probably 1996’s “Independence Day.” The internet was too slow and poky for that kind of video so it was mostly a theatrical thing but the trailer quickly became a must-see in anticipation of the summer alien invasion film.

Following that was perhaps the second “event” trailer, this time for the Star Wars Special Editions. The first one was attached with some prints of “Independence Day” and it quickly became a hunt to find which theaters were showing it. A second trailer (or maybe it was the same one, who knows) was released in the fall of 1996 on a more widespread basis. Again it was mostly a theatrical experience because of internet limits of the time. I remember paying to see “First Contact,” “Space Jam,” and “Jingle All The Way” just to catch the trailer more than once.

But it was all nothing compared to the debut of the first TPM trailer in November 1998. If ID4 and the Special Editions made trailers must-sees, TPM permanently made trailers as big a deal as the movies themselves. While many fans paid to see the trailer at a movie theater, many others spent an hour or so downloading it at home. It set a record for the number of downloads at the time and if that wasn’t enough, just about every media outlet you can think of showed it at least once. It made news all over the world. When TPM’s second trailer debuted in March 1999, I watched it online first and then I saw it on t.v. several times thereafter. AOTC had a short teaser, an internet only trailer (that you had to unlock with a TPM DVD), and two other theatrical trailers, one of which debuted on t.v. during Fox’s Sunday night lineup. ROTS’s trailers were also all over the internet and the media. Its second trailer debuted during a broadcast of “The O.C..”

Trailers once had no fanfare and were made on the cheap. Now they are flashy productions with announced debut dates and social media buzz. People don’t have to buy movie tickets anymore to see trailers; now they expect not to. TFA built up on the strategies first launched with TPM. Its first teaser trailer in November 2014 debuted online the same day it was supposed to debut in theaters and it was shown on every broadcast outlet worldwide. Its second trailer in April 2015 debuted at Celebration Anaheim but was put on the internet and shown on t.v. all over the world just moments later. Its third trailer debuted a week ago during Monday Night Football and was shortly thereafter put on the internet. Lucasfilm claimed that 16 million viewers caught it on ESPN and online, it was viewed 112 million times within 24 hours of its debut. See, now they’re putting out press releases after the trailers too! But it shows that greatly improved internet capabilities, outlets like YouTube, and the availability of video on social media can allow the experience to be just as good on your device of choice as on your television. It also lets you watch it over and over and over with relative ease.

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13 Responses to “Then And Now: Trailer Mania”

  1. Kim Says:

    I fondly remember going to “First Contact” with my younger brother to catch the Special Edition trailer and being so excited. I recall taping the Episode I trailer from Entertainment Tonight and watching it over and over and over. And over. Good times!

    • lazypadawan Says:

      Those were the days!

      The amazing part of when I saw “First Contact” was the audience was packed with Trek fans and they all applauded the Special Editions trailer!

      • Kim Says:

        I had the same experience! It was kind of moving that a trailer for a movie nearly everyone had already seen in some form brought such moments of pure joy. I can’t remember now how we even knew the trailer was supposed to play with “First Contact”, but it was the start of the creation of many fond memories anticipating and enjoying the Special Editions and the prequels.

  2. jarjarbacktattooguy Says:

    There’s a whole trailer culture out there now.

    In the pre-high speed internet days, most people never even saw the full theatrical trailers for most of the films they would see.

    There weren’t hundreds of geek news outlets to discuss them. If you didn’t see it in the theater, the only place to see them would be Entertainment Tonight or the E! News shows (back when they actually did serious film journalism). I remember the Batman Returns trailer being really hyped on ET.

    The problem now is, the trailers tell us half of the films story, and since they are so widely distributed on the internet, there are spoilers everywhere months before the films premiere. All of the discussion boards and news sites just assume you’ve seen the trailers, and have no problem divulging important plot points.

    Often, back in the day, I would go into a film knowing next to nothing about it because it was hard to get information. Today, we know *too* much before we go in.

    I applaud Kathyfilm for not “giving it up” for the fans in the Force Awakens trailers. Sometimes, if they make you wait, the experience is better.

    The problem is with younger people today, who expect their trailers to put out for them on the first go around. They don’t want to be teased; they want it, and want it now! Unless the film is available for streaming or digital download day and date with the films theatrical release, they aren’t happy.

  3. susanbowes Says:

    Teasers playing on youtube also allows you to save any video you want in you own movie files on your computer that you can watch repeatedly. Man I love technology!

  4. susanbowes Says:

    jarjarbacktattooguy:
    It’s true that trailers show a lot of important scenes and in some cases they show too much which can spoil a movie for many people. However, you always have the option of not viewing trailers or logging onto discussion sites who might reveal too much of the plot, also ruining a movie. I generally choose not to watch too many trailers and never listen to the spoilers. On the other hand, I did watch all 3 trailers for TFA and still don’t know the real plot. Disney was smart to keep that a secret. It makes fans want to see the movie all the more.

  5. Stefan Kraft Says:

    Ah, the good old days of 1999… I have already shared my EP I trailer experience on Facebook, but still:
    We were on a 56 kBit/s connection back then, so it took my one hour to download the movie in the minimum quality offered (just as LP has written above 🙂 ). Unfortunately, I did not know back then that you had to have Quicktime 4 to watch it! As I only had version 3, I was stuck to listening to the sound. (Still, I managed to guess that Qui-Gon would die because of the “Nooo” scream I heard.) I did not realise that my Quicktime version was just too old and rather settled that something was wrong with the downloaded file. (It is of course possible that my memory betrays me here, but that’s what I remember.)
    Some years later, I would get version 4 of Quicktime so that I realised what the problem was. But then, we may already have owned the DVD.

    Anyway, we got DSL in 2000, so I could stream the Ep II and III trailers as often as I wanted. 🙂

    • Stefan Kraft Says:

      I also remember that the Swiss public TV station SF2 had one pop culture show where a part of one episode was dedicated to the EP I hype, expectations and reception in the US. (Don’t forget that TPM was released in May 1999 in the US, but only in the summer of the same year here in Europe). I had hoped that they would show the EP I trailer, but I think they only showed some parts of it.
      They also quoted some of the negative reviews, but did not offer one themselves. I think the EP I part of the show ended with a rather conciliatory tone like “let’s see what we think of it when it is released here.” They also presented one fan that would fly to the US in May to watch TPM.
      Fun fact: one friend of mine was in the US in the spring of 1999 and watched it. He told me of the “vendors” that would offer you pirated copies of TPM during queuing.

      • lazypadawan Says:

        That must’ve been in NYC! My cousin bought one of those pirated movies once (not TPM) from a guy on the streets of New York and it was literally recorded on a video camera off the screen as the movie was playing. It was like watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 without the jokes.

      • susanbowes Says:

        I saw a pirated DVD of Revenge before seeing it at my local theater. I don’t know who pirated the DVD because a friend lent it to me. It had numbers scrolling across the top of the film during the whole movie so I imagine somebody who worked for Lucasfilms stole it from the main copy. I know I shouldn’t have viewed the pirated version, but I just couldn’t wait to see Revenge. My apologies to Mr. Lucas.

      • lazypadawan Says:

        ROTS was pirated shortly before its release by someone at the company that was doing the transfers onto film for release.

      • susanbowes Says:

        I figured it was somebody who worked for Lucasfilms. I’ve never seen electrical clapboards scrolling on top of a movie before and knew it had to be an original copy taken directly from the movie.

      • Stefan Kraft Says:

        Indeed, I think that he was in NY. 🙂

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