Love them or hate them, movie trailers now take up about 20 minutes of your time before you get to see an actual movie in a theater. So before the onslaught of summer movies begins, here are some facts about the marketing masterpieces that are movie trailers.
1. THEY DATE BACK TO 1913.
Trailers have been around almost as long as movies themselves. The first trailer ran more than 100 years ago, in 1913, though it didn’t promote another movie; it was for the Broadway musical The Pleasure Seekers. Nils T. Granlund, an advertising manager with Loews, made the trailer out of rehearsal footage. Within a year he was making similar trailers for one of the most famous actors of the era—Charlie Chaplin.
2. THEY USED TO RUN AFTER THE MOVIE.
The term “trailer” comes from their original placement within the movie screening—“trailing” at the end of the film. Marketers quickly realized a large portion of the audience left immediately after the feature ended, so they (smartly) moved them to run before the movie began
3. MAKING MOVIE TRAILERS BECAME A MONOPOLY.
Almost all of the movie trailers made between 1919 and 1960 were created by The National Screen Service (NSS). The company had a monopoly on the trailer-making business, and eventually began producing movie posters and marketing products, too. The NSS’s reign ended in the 1960s, when auteur filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock began making their own movie trailers.
4. ALFRED HITCHCOCK MADE A SIX-MINUTE TRAILER FOR PSYCHO.
Alfred Hitchcock’s trailer for Psycho (1960) was a full six minutes long, and consisted of Hitchcock walking around the set, describing parts of the movie. It’s an extremely unique trailer in that it explains almost the entire movie yet gives nothing away.
5. MOVIE TRAILERS NOW HAVE TIME LIMITS.
In 2014, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) established guidelines that state that trailers should be no more than two minutes long. Distributors are given one exception per year for a movie they believe should be exempt from this limit. However, most theaters show around eight trailers before a movie, equaling about 20 minutes of trailers.
6. A SEVEN-HOUR TRAILER WAS RELEASED EARLIER THIS YEAR.
Earlier this year, Swedish artist Anders Weberg made a seven-hour-long trailer for his experimental film, Ambiancé, which has a runtime of 720 hours!
7. THE FIRST TRAILERS WERE HEAVY ON EXPLOSIONS AND STARS.
Early movie trailers were light on plot, but heavy on stars and spectacle. Very few trailers made narrative sense and the focus was mostly on one-liners and impressive effects that could potentially draw an audience to the theater.
8. DON LAFONTAINE WAS THE MOST RECOGNIZABLE MOVIE TRAILER VOICE.
The stentorian voice heard in many movie trailers was that of Don LaFontaine. LaFontaine recorded more than 5000 film trailers including Home Alone (1990), Die Hard (1998), and what is believed to be his first foray into being the go-to voice—Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981). The voiceover artist passed away in 2008.
9. THE TRAILER FOR DRIVE LED TO A “FALSE ADVERTISING” LAWSUIT.
While some movie trailers are guilty of giving too much away, others have been accused of being too vague. In 2011, Michigan resident Sarah Deming sued FilmDistrict, the distributors behind Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, because she claimed the trailer marketed it as being similar to 2009’s Fast & Furious. In her suit, Deming stated that the movie “bore very little similarity to a chase, or race action film ... having very little driving in the motion picture.”