Trailers, of both movies and TV series, are becoming a category of entertainment on their own. It might have taken the organizers of the Golden Trailer Awards (GTA) 17 years to prove their point, but vindication can be glorious, especially when it is backed by the internet and social media.
Trailers have outgrown their initial function as previews to the main event and as publicity tools, to becoming actual players. Millions of viewers download them, analyze each supposed secret revealed in the tiniest images, debate their creativity (or lack of it) in blogs, and share them with other friends and followers to engage them in the discussion.
In her interview with Variety, GTA executive director Evelyn Walters sums it up wonderfully, “[Trailers] are the most important and impactful part of a film campaign, and they now live well beyond the movie theaters and have become the most consistently popular content online.”
Perceiving audience reaction
Far from just hinting at plots and appearances of favorite movie stars, trailers can become an indicator of just how their movies might fare at the box-office or with critics. Collider commends the latest trailer of Captain America: Civil War for providing deeper plot expositions and spot-on character introductions of Spiderman and Black Panther. All these winning elements just might mean second and third viewings from captivated audiences.
The same article also has Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zack Snyder’s revelation that he had to remove a scene showing Superman hearing the desperate cries of millions of people as he was racing to save his mom, Martha. The implication is clear: another dark scene in a movie that early audience reaction lambasted as too morbid, based on its trailers, might spell its death at the tills. In this case, it foreshadowed the dismal response of critics.
Look at this trailer, treasures untold
Trailers are also broken down by the more fervent fans to spot "Easter eggs” or additional fun information that will reconnect the movie to a counterpart or a genre. In superhero movies, this obsessive quest can be enough to make the viewer’s inner fanboy/fangirl happy, an enthusiasm which the producers hope will infect other viewers.
CNET’s analysis of the latest Doctor Strange movie is a mini-encyclopedia of trivia that keeps the reader lured to the screen; the reviewer does not just mention that one scene showed the car wreck that propelled the ordinary physician to transform into a hero. It echoes a similar situation in the Marvel Universe, where an automobile accident converted a human into a superbeing. (Why, hello there, Jessica Jones)
Keep the passion burning
Trailers can also rally entire social movie-watching communities into revitalizing passion for a series that is in-between shoots, or a character who has figuratively and literally passed away. It will take a more than a year before the next adventure of Rey and Finn following Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens at the movie house. However, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, Twitter reaction to the spinoff Star Wars: Rogue Force whetted fans' appetite seven months before its premiere in December.
Perhaps, the best way for the studios to engage these communities and spread the word about their shows is to bring in the most active social media users into the fold. These are fans who go out of their way to post and tweet about their programs, answer comments, create threads and other digital breadcrumbs for fellow devotees to follow. They keep their ear to the ground 24/7, sensitive to every teaser and studio press release, making sure that their lifeline of connectivity to the net continues with the help of powerful Wi-Fi routers, network extenders, and video streaming services.
HBO is the first to start this social movement within a social movement. Following the controversial death of Jon Snow in the phenomenal Game of Thrones, HBO’s marketing department got 76,000 retweets and 59,000 favorites when it issued a poster of the Night Watch Commander presumably resurrected. A teaser trailer for the highly-anticipated sixth season notched 9 million views.
To get the audience even more stoked for the season premiere, HBO recruited devoted social-media-savvy fans with their own popular accounts to tweet about past and future episodes. Twitter accounts like @LordSnow, @GOT_Tyrion, and @Daenerys do not get paid for their services but HBO markets and promotes their Twitter accounts in return. For these devoted fans, that kind of honor is enough.
It is still debatable whether a trailer can make or break a movie or series, or spike or spiral the ratings of a series. Still, it does keep the fan community buzzing, conversing, and interacting. It will never take the place of the actual film or program, but it has created its own unique identity and is judged, applauded, and criticized by its own merits. Trailers have become events in themselves – until the premiere. Then the fans quiet down and wait with baited breath to await the next fun-filled trailer that will stream into their digital space.