The official theatrical trailer for the next “Star Wars” movie, “The Force Awakens,” isn’t even out yet, but already the official teaser trailers have been viewed more than 75 million times online. And they’ve grabbed enough headlines to keep an army of Stormtroopers distracted for hours.
The trailers have been teased or shown on Instagram and other social media, and every dribble of new “Star Wars” footage has been given the level of attention movie studios once reserved for movies themselves. Trailers no longer just promote movies, they are events in and of themselves, often with big budgets.
Ellene Miles, a publicity strategist in Los Angeles, says by “eventizing” a trailer, the studio is “creating a frenzy. It is creating a deep, deep anticipation.”
Miles says there are a lot of ways to create buzz around the release of a movie trailer. Some studios offer exclusive “premieres” to media outlets, like late night talk shows or popular websites. For instance, the red band trailer (as in R-rated) made its debut earlier this month on “Conan.”
“Trailers have become the main event,” Miles says. “Or pretty much the undercard to the main event.”
In the first six months of the year, movie fans watched 35 million hours of movie trailers on You Tube, according to its parent company, Google. And that was just on smart phones.
Trailers have become enough of a draw that they often attract ads for other movies. So, you’ll have to sit through one trailer before you can see the trailer you came to watch.
And the trailer genre has expanded dramatically.
“Instead of just one theatrical trailer, you are getting the green band for everyone, the red band, R-rated trailer,” says Frederick Greene, who researches movie trailers and movie marketing. “You have teasers, you have featurettes, you have a whole ecology of movie marketing materials.”
Thanks to the web, there are also many more outlets for trailers and opportunities to tailor them to different audiences.
“Jurassic World,” for example, had multiple full-length trailers and at least two dozen different TV spots.
All this attention to trailers is fueling a boom in the industry. Greene says back in the 1980s, there were four major trailer houses. Today, there are closer to a hundred.
Chris Walter heads one of those companies, A Big Trailer. It has produced trailers for “The Hurt Locker,” “Neighbors,” “Despicable Me 2” and others.
“You would think through the amount of trailers being created, the quality would go down,” he says. “But they are actually getting better.”
With trailers becoming their own events, movie studios have a lot to lose if they don’t get it right, and a lot to gain if they do.
“Studios will triple vend, quadruple vend, meaning they will send a film to four of five different trailer houses,” Walter says, adding that studios have been known to spend as much as $1 million on one attempt. “Then, they will have a bake-off to see who does the best one.”
But for all the new obsession, the goal of trailers is still the same: to get people to see the movie.