Movie trailers


What is a movie trailer?

So this is the part where i would explain what a trailer is. this is here so that the audience has some sort of sense of what I’m on about. Also i put in the reason I’m drawn to the subject.

Movie Trailer: Trailers or previews are film advertisements for feature films that will be exhibited in the future at a cinema, on whose screen they are shown. [3]

I’ve always held a certain fascination with movie trailers. I don’t really know why, I just have. Maybe be its because they can make you happy, sad, excited, queasy, give you a thrill, give you a chill, all in two and a half minutes. I even always like to turn up early to see a film just so we can catch the previews.

Everyone has seen a movie trailer… well anyone who isn’t living under the proverbial “rock”.

They are everywhere, at the movies, on DVDs, of the some ten million online videos that are watched, movie trailers rank number three. [4]

So you must have at least seen one.

Trailers are a very popular and influential “marketing tool”. And yet there is not much actual attention  payed to the trailers themselves. Though movies are praised, condemned, or both. Trailers aren’t given a second thought, though without their trailers the movies would not be what they are today.

So I have taken up the duty of giving you a little background on these fantastic things, and so next time you see one, can hold a little appreciation for them.

This is one of the “fun facts”. This is here because it is something i couldn’t quite work how to put it in to the general script. also it gives you a bit of a break.

Fun Fact: Movie trailers are called so because, back in the good old days, they came after the showing of a movie, but that stopped because people tended to leave when a movie was over. So they were moved to before the showing, but the name stuck.

These are some facts that i have put down. they appear throughout. These are things that i wanted to put into the script. not all of my facts are down here, as i may have written something down that i interpenetrated straight from the source. these are a direct quote of the fact from the website.

Trailers or previews are film advertisements for feature films that will be exhibited in the future at a cinema, on whose screen they are shown. [3]

so this next part is the entire history of trailers. the reason i put this in is so people have some understanding of where trailers came from and their origins.

History of the movie trailer

So how about a little history on trailers?

Trailers aren’t nearly as old as movies themselves, but they date back pretty early, right back until 1913, at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway, the first movie trailer ever shown, was for the musical: The Pleasure Seekers. [2,3]

And it only grew from there. In 1916 Paramount became the first studio to official release trailers and by 1919 they had their own trailer department. Then the inception of the NSS (National Screen Service), in 1919, served as the main distributor for mostly all means of promotional material including trailers. From the late 1920’s until way into the 70’s the NSS controlled and distributed mostly all of the promotional materials for movies, including trailers. The way that this work was, theatres would “rent” the trailers from the NSS, then the NSS would pay the people who made the trailer. Afterward the studios would collect royalties from the NSS.

Studios were mostly too distracted with making of the movie itself, so they left it too the NSS. And they produced what ever was needed, with the resources of the studio.

As you might expect, not too many of the trailers from that period were brilliant, have a look at the trailer for The Greatest Show on Earth, this a very generic trailer for the time. Though some were worth a note, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Apart from that, and a few others, many of the trailers lacked any originality, and as studios were looking more and more for a way to distinguish their product among a sea of clones, they started to detach themselves from the NSS and start their own trailer departments.

As time passed, to the 1960’s to be exact, the audience started to demand more of film. This prompted many studios to move out of Hollywood and to places like New York or London and shoot many of their films on location.

As the film industry changed, so did the entire trailer industry. People were no longer enticed by the hollow promises made by movie trailers.

And so changes were happening, studios started to hire new people, specialists, with a background in advertising. And as result trailers started to use subtler title treatments, other types of graphics, they stopped using the first names of actors, people started to make trailers far more story driven, rather than the old way of bragging about the stars and use of fancy adjectives, which for the time was very “passé”. And soon enough they completely abandoned the old linear way of editing and started to make trailers in the style that you know now, all cut up and non-linear. It was thanks to people like Esther Harris and Max Weinberg, for these rather dramatic changes.

Another very notable name is Andrew J. Kuehn. This is the man is responsible for revolutionising the film trailer, pretty making it what it is today. He first worked for MGM, and in 1968 he opened his own company called Kaleidoscope Films. And for the next 3 decades he played a major part in the film trailer industry. [2,7]

And so, during the 60’s, one might say that this was somewhat of a Movie Trailer Renaissance.

so the next half, shows the dramatic development of trailers, as well as the development of the audience along side of the trailers.

By the late 60’s people were becoming more aware of the power of television advertising. And thus begins a new age of Trailers made for TV.  Instead of trailers explaining the movie, they started to make trailers where the movie spoke for itself.

But it wasn’t until 1971 that movie studios “really” started to acknowledge TV advertising. The movie Billy jack didn’t do very well in cinemas, only grossing $2 million, but the director/writer/star, Tom Laughlin, sued the studio for misdistribution of his film. So they redistributed his film like crazy on television. And on the second release of the film, it grossed $22 million. A massive gain.

Due to this, the entire industry took note. So more and more, trailers appeared on TV.

When MTV turned up this showed people how to use quick cuts and music to help tell the story. This was another big step in movie trailer evolution.

So as trailers became more and more modern, the NSS became more and more of a distributor. Until they disappeared all together.[2,7]

So that pretty much brings you up to speed

some more notes

In the late ’60s, studios were just beginning to realize the potential impact of television, both as a source of competition for movies and an additional venue for disseminating information about them to the public.[2]

The first trailer shown in a U.S. movie theatre was in November 1913, when Nils Granlund, the advertising manager for the Marcus Loew theatre chain, produced a short promotional film for the musical The Pleasure Seekers, opening at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. [4,6]

Andrew J. Kuehn, Jr.


Art of the movie trailer

so this part is telling you about what makes a trailer and the diffrences between certain trailers. it also shows the versitility of trailers and how broad their use is

Now there are a few key elements that make up a movie trailer. First is a voice over. [3,5] Very cliché, I know but they are a cliché for a reason. A voice-over isn’t essential to a trailer, but is rather common. A voice-over is used to enhance the audiences understanding of the plot as well helps as set a mood for the overall trailer. A grand, booming voice! Or a pleasant, affable voice. The voice-over is a powerful and flexible tool when implemented well. Good examples, to show the versatility of the voice-overs, are the trailers for the films: Terminator 2 and Cheaper by the Dozen. Two drastically different films but both use the same voice-over artist. The Terminator 2 trailer uses the voice-over to create a very serious feel of action and suspense. Now watch the trailer for Cheaper by the Dozen, the use of the voice over in this trailer creates a friendly, playful vibe. For both these trailers the voice-over achieved what it set out to do, to set the right frame of mind for the viewing of the trailer, though it was the same voice for both of them. Now I mentioned before that the voice-over is somewhat of a cliché, and some trailers use this to their advantage. Movies such as Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian and Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny both use the cliché of the voice-over for satirical effect, to enhance the trailer.

A voice-over isn’t the only part of a trailer, there is also the music [3,5]. The music is an almost integral part of any film trailer, as well as in any other medium. Music is important. The music sets the mood and tone of the overall trailer, as well as enrich it. Often trailers wont use the same music as in the film because the film score might note have been written yet. In this place they would probably use music borrowed from other films, generic music made to go in films, a contemporary music track, or a track specially composed for use in the trailer. [3] A trailer that I personally think uses music brilliantly is the trailer for the film Pineapple Express. For the first half the music is rather laid back, a bit funky which meshes well with the tone, then MIA’s Paper planes kicks in and things start to get a little hectic, the actions in the trailer move in time with the music. This trailer is a personal favourite of mine, music-wise anyway.

Next is a cast run. This is where the stars of the film, and if the director, or producer, is notable would appear. This is usually presented in two ways. With the actors name on a title card, or with a voice-over and usually a shot of the actor. And at the end of the movie trailer there is a billing block, which is a list of the principle cast and crew. [3]

i like to give examples of things, it helps gets my point across more clearly

A good example of all of these elements in use is the trailer for The Warrior’s Way. Music, a voice over, a cast run, and at the end of it all a billing block. A pretty generic trailer.

The footage of a movie trailer is usually the footage from the film itself, but this is not always the case. Certain trailers use specially shot footage never intended to be in the film. The most notable use of this, is the trailer for the movie Spiderman. The trailer is an entire action scene, specially shot. It involves escaping bank robbers being caught in a web between the World Trade Centres two towers. Though this was pulled from cinemas after the events of 9/11

another fun fact

Fun Fact: All movie trailers have to be two and a half minutes. This is maximum time allowed by the MPAA. Each studio or distributor is allowed to exceed this time once a year if they feel it is necessary for the particular film. [3]

A trailer has to achieve that in less than two and a half minutes, the maximum length allowed by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) [3]

Evolution of movie trailer

so this next part ties in somewhat with the history part. this shows how trailers have changed and in turn, to a certain extent, how the audience evolved with the trailers.

Movie trailers have come a long way.

The trailers of old are very different from what we see today. Back in the old day a trailer would always try and sell the movie, but nowadays the trailer tries to sell itself, and inturn sells the movie. They are separate yet co-dependant. Appearing at key moments in movie trailer history, there are several trailers that helped develop the style of trailers that we see today. The first is the trailer for the movie La Dolce Vita. this trailer was rather different for its time, the trailer is a series of stills from the movie with a Congo beat. At the time this trailer offered a rather subdued alternative to the then common overkill tactic. The next is the trailer for the film Dr Strangelove. This trailer was a milestone in the movie trailer evolutionary process. This trailer is very strange and quite confusing, and by no means a good trailer, but this was the first trailer to use non-linear editing, the type of editing that we see in all modern movie trailers today. [2]

Another key point was the development of the Avid software in 1987, [7] which made non-linear editing much easier, instead of taking nearly an entire day to make a trailer, it could be done in half the time. [6]

Appearing at key moments in the evolutionary process, several trailers helped establish the developing style. For instance, the Dr. Strangelove trailer interspersed titles with scenes from the movie, pioneering a distinct new graphic feel. In 1960, Federico Fellini cut his own trailer for La Dolce Vita. By simply setting a series of stills to a congo beat, Fellini offered a relatively subdued alternative to the then-common overkill tactic and profoundly influenced the style of the time. [2]

“Everything has changed since we’ve gone to Avid,” says David Sameth, who oversees trailer production for DreamWorks. A decade earlier, Sameth worked with a radically different system of editing at Universal. “The basis of how you create a trailer, the thinking, might still be the same as it was when we cut on film, but it’s a whole different world when you go, ‘Should we try this? Well, it’ll take a day an a half,’ as opposed to, ‘Should we try this? Well, it’ll take 30 minutes.'” [2]


Future of movie trailers

so this is what some see as what could possibly be, the future of trailers. i put this this part in because it shows how trailers are still evolving, and as well give it somewhat of a finishing vibe to it.

And since the avid technology came along, and with the development of the internet, posting trailers up for streaming. Trailer makers dream about taking the next logical step; custom-tailoring a trailer for specific groups of people. Since finishing time is extremely short and only getting shorter, there will be room for regionally made trailers. Right now studios spend money printing the trailers onto film, and then it’s a done deal, but as digital projection becomes more and more common studios will have more control over which trailers to play before which film, and eventually make custom trailers for different screenings. Such as a trailer for a comedy movie is showing and some think it’s hilarious and some people don’t think its funny, recut it to be more funny, resend it to the right theatres, and it could all be done within a day. Another rather common scenario is, say, there is a trailer for a rom-com, anyone they’re all the same, and there is this one guy who is in 90% of the trailer and everyone loves him, then he is caught drunk with a hooker, and now everyone hates him. (I could think of a few) Right now studios would just ride it out until the film is released. But in the future it is possible that they could stop showing that particular trailer and recut, it so that he’s only in about 10% of it, send it off, and all the theatres will be showing the new one, and it could all be done in 24 hours. This could save a lot of money for the studios.

That is the way trailers could be.

and this is just a little outro by me

But no matter how much thing change, how much the industry evolves, the trailer is always going to be there, right there along with the movies. Whether it be just a bunch of crude slides or a half a million dollar montage. Trailers will continue show that there is always more to see, more to experience.

So next time your at the movies, on the web, watching a DVD, Blu-ray, or hell a VHS and you see a movie trailer, I hope you have a newfound appreciation for that little two and a half minute marvel.

But trailer makers seem most excited about developments in the mechanisms studios use to deliver trailers to prospective audiences. Most studios already post their trailers to the Web for download. Now, they dream of the next logical step, custom-tailoring trailers to appeal to specific users. [3]
(Regarding Avid) It was created in 1987 and became a publicly traded company in 1993. [6]

this is the list of all the trailers mentioned and a link to see them. they all have the title of the movie, the year and what i could and did use them for. also after it is the bibliography.

Filmography of trailers

Spiderman (2002)


A good example of special footage, that was never intended to be in the film, being used for promotion.

Psycho (1960)


A good example of old style trailers.

Dr Strangelove (1964)


The first to use non-linear style editing for a trailer.

La Dolce Vita (1960)


The comedian (2002)


A trailer making fun of voice work.

Terminator 2 (1991)


Cheaper by the dozen (2003)


2 different movies showing the flexibility of voice over

Tenacious D (2006)


A stupid voice over

Greatest show on earth (1952)


Very generic old style trailer.

Pineapple Express (2008)


Good use of music

The Warrior’s Way (2010)


A trailer with all mentioned elements

Billy Jack (1971)



All accessed on the 04/04/11.

[1]Media Report



[2]History of Movie Trailers



[3]Wikipedia on Movie Trailers



[4]Movie trailers rank #3


[5]Coming attractions: Reading American Movie Trailers.

Author: Lisa Kernan,

Publisher: University of Texas Press

Publish date: 11/2004

[6]Avid website


[7]Avid wiki


[8]Andrew J. Kuehn biography


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