Movie trailers are promotional tools which are used to get audiences excited about an upcoming film. They are classically shown in movie theaters before the feature presentation begins, and they are also widely distributed on the Internet, being among the top five forms of video content enjoyed by video users. Films with a large advertising budget may also show movie trailers on television, and studios classically add trailers for their own films to their video releases. In some cases, movie trailers have been so well-designed and beautifully executed that they have won awards, a remarkable feat for an advertisement lasting less than five minutes in most cases.
Trailers are almost as old as the silver screen itself. Originally, they followed or “trailed” the feature film, but movie studios realized that audiences tended to leave after the movie was over, missing the trailers. As a result, the advertisements were moved so that they directly preceded the film, leading some people to refer to them as “previews.” Typically, four to six previews will be shown before the start of a feature film.
In a classic movie trailer, the first thing viewers see is a rating card, indicating the rating for the film being advertised, and in some cases, the rating for the trailer. If the film has not yet been rated, this will be indicated. Then, the trailer begins, showing excerpts from the film which are artfully cut together to give audiences a sense of what will happen in the movie, and to get people fired up about seeing the film.
Most movie trailers include a voice over. One of the most famous narrators for movie trailers was Don LaFontaine, who voiced thousands of trailers for Hollywood films with a voice so distinctive that it was instantly recognizable. LaFontaine also gleefully participated in parodies of traditional movie trailers, often using his signature line “In a world...” The voice over typically includes information about when the movie will be released, along with a brief synopsis of the film.
Some studios roll out their trailers slowly, building anticipation for major films. A studio may start with teaser trailers, very brief movie trailers which just give a taste of the film, often with a cryptic message. For example, an iconic image from the film might be shown, followed by a title card which just says “It's Coming” or “Coming Soon.” Over time, the studio will release longer trailers, taking advantage of completed footage to flesh out their previews with scenes which will appeal to viewers.