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Theatrical trailers are 2-3 minute advertisements for movies that play in cinemas before another movie. The term comes from their originally being shown at the end of a movie, though today trailers are almost always shown before the film begins.
Trailers before films are placed there by the film's distributor, not the cinema. Thus trailers almost always advertise another film from the same firm. This makes a hit film even more valuable as means more people will see ads for the company's other films. This ability can also affect when films are released. If a studio has a guaranteed hit they will schedule similar films for release soon after so that the audience who saw the trailer before the first film will see the second. An extreme example of this is Miramax's decision to delay the North American release of Hero by two years mostly so that they could widely advertise the film before Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill.
This advertising is especially valuable as it can be carefully targeted. Movies appealing to one age group or demographic will have trailers for films targeting that same group. Trailers tend to appeal to specific markets, and if you compare different trailers for the same movie, you'll find that they also portray specific themes depending on their intended market.
The vast majority of trailers are made up of film scenes cut out of context. Trailers of this type are quite cheap to produce and are usually effective. The most common technique is to show some the highlights of the film. Thus for an action movie some of the most elaborate special effects shots will be cut into the trailer. For a comedy two or three of the funniest jokes will be put in the trailer. Dramas, which tend not to have five second highlights, tend to focus more on plot.
There are a few films that do not use edited footage from the actual film, but instead created their own mini-movies to sell the film. The most notable film to use this technique was Terminator II, whose trailer featured elaborate special effects scenes that were never intended to be in the film itself. One of the most famous "mini-movie" trailers is that used for the 1960s thriller Psycho which featured director Alfred Hitchcock giving viewers a guided tour of the Bate's Motel, eventually arriving at the infamous shower. At this point, the soft-spoken Hitchcock suddenly throws the shower curtain back to reveal the only scene from the movie included in the trailer -- Janet Leigh's bloodcurdling scream.
A common occurrence is for a trailer to include scenes that were originally filmed to be part of the movie, but were later cut. A trailer might also use a different take of a scene than the one that appears in the movie. These trailers are particularly coveted by collectors, especially in cases of trailers for classic films. For example, a trailer for Casablanca shows a sequence in which Rick Blaine says "OK, you asked for it!" before shooting Major Strasser, an event which does not occur in the final film.
All trailers also emphasize what high profile stars are in the film, sometimes listing some of the awards these actors have achieved. Noted directors and producers are also listed, but since few directors and producers have name recognition among the general populace far more common is to mention a previous successful film the director or producer released in the same genre.
As well as highlights from the film, another ubiquitous feature of the trailer is a voice-over. The voice-over is usually essential to inform the audience about the plot of the film, as brief disconnected scenes rarely can do this.
The end of a trailer is marked with a brief shot of a list of the main cast and production team. This list normally contains dozens of names and is impossible to read in the brief period it is on the screen. It is still insisted upon by union contracts, however.
After this listing of credits is one final clip from the film, of only two or three seconds. Research has shown that this clip is what audiences most clearly remember. In comedies it is very common for it to be a brief bit of physical comedy, often involving an injury to a character. In dramas it is more common for it to be a single line that the trailer's creators hope will create interest in seeing the entire film.
While some filmmakers leave the creation of the trailer to the studio, many others closely supervise the task. A trailer must be regarded as an important part of a film itself. Almost all of the audience that sees a film will have seen either the trailer or a briefer television commercial. Thus what is revealed in the trailer greatly impacts on the level of suspense and the audience expectations. For instance that the entire audience is aware that a film is about a serial killer because of a trailer, will greatly reduce the surprise they feel when a character is killed.
How much to give away in a trailer is a controversial question. Filmmaker Robert Zemeckis argues that a trailer should tell everything about a film, even its ending, as audiences do not want to pay a goodly sum to see films unless they know exactly what they are paying for. Most other filmmakers disagree and believe that some surprise is necessary and that a trailer should show no more than is needed to convince the audience to see a film.
Trailers have spread to other media as well. Trailers for computer games have especially become popular.
The two most well known voice-over artists who work on movie trailers are Don LaFontaine and Hal Douglas. They currently take most of the voice-over work for movie trailers, making their voices well-known to the movie-going public. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trailer_%28movie%29 [Mar 2005]
The Radley Metzger Trailers
Unlike the ponderous trailers produced by Hollywood studios today, trailer-making 30 or 40 years ago was considered an art form-the best editors and most creative minds were assigned to create titillating, provocative "come-ons" for film audiences everywhere.
Radley Metzger, before he directed such classic films as Therese and Isabelle, The Lickerish Quartet and Score, was employed by various companies to create trailers for films that have become both enduring classics and campy kitsch. This collection of vintage trailers, all made by Radley Metzger, includes 45 of the best examples from the world of cinema circa 1950-70, from art house classics to European sex imports to Drive-In cult classics.
Featuring the original theatrical trailers for the classic shocker The Mysterians; Ingmar Bergman's The Magician & The Secrets of Women; Andrzej Wadja's Ashes and Diamonds; the notorious Olga's Girls and Hitler's Inferno; Elke Sommer in Daniella by Night & Sweet Ecstasy; sexploitation classics The Weird Lovemakers, The Fourth Sex & The Twilight Girls; and Radley Metzger's Therese and Isabelle, The Alley Cats, The Lickerish Quartet, and Score. Plus dozens more!
- Radley Metzger Trailers (1999) - Radley Metzger [Amazon US]
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