Today, movie trailers are commonplace in the entertainment industry. Not only are trailers used to promote…well, movies, but they are also utilized to promote Broadway shows, soon-to-be-released music albums, and recently books. I was curious to learn about when this advertising approach began, and I was surprised to discover that the first trailer shown in a movie theater wasn’t for a movie. It wasn’t shown prior to the feature film screening either.
In November of 1913, Nils Granlund, the advertising manager for the Marcus Loew theater chain, created a short promotional film for the musical, The Pleasure Seekers, which opened later that year at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City. The trailer, which was aptly named for coming at the end of the movie, was a novelty. The Daily Star in Lincoln, Nebraska called the new advertising technique a “new and unique stunt […that] will take the place of much of the bill board advertising.”
A year later, Granlund also produced the first trailer for a film featuring Charlie Chaplin, and trailers have been used to advertise for feature films ever since. However, the style of the trailers have changed dramatically since their creation. The first movie trailers were really “teasers,” which relied on crypt questions, messages, and shots from the film to pique the audience’s interest; this technique is still very popular with horror films today, some for censorship reasons and others for artistic representation. Teaser trailers also focused on the actors in the film to better draw in the audience. This short YouTube video from University of Nebraska Lincoln explains the differences between contemporary trailers to their earlier counterparts:
Here is the trailer for Gone with the Wind (1939); this isn’t the original trailer (this was compiled, or at least re-edited, after the movie won 10 Academy Awards), but you will see a marked difference in its style when compared to contemporary trailers.
As you can see, the trailer relies very heavily on text, the actors, and and little else to promote the movie rather than giving away the whole plot. Now let’s take a look at a contemporary trailer and see how they compare. This trailer is for This Means War, an action comedy being released tomorrow.
With this trailer, the entire plot is exposed, leaving little to the audience’s imagination, but the actors of the film are heavily emphasized. As the semester continues, I’ll be interested to discover more about trailers and further analyze the advertising and film techniques they incorporate. Stay tuned for more!