Trailer is a term for the short promotional film that precedes the main feature in movie theaters or cinemas. The trailer is an integral part of the marketing process, not only for films but also for a wide variety of artistic projects and even commercial business ventures. While most of the work on a trailer is technical, there is an inherent art to making it that goes largely unnoticed. A trailer is an introductory first impression, which can either draw in potential viewers or put them off.
In movie terms, a trailer is a preview that presents a film’s plot and key characters to the audience in a short time frame. A trailer can help the viewer decide whether a film is worth watching, as well as provide information on a film’s release date, location and other important information. It is often accompanied by music and effects. Depending on the genre of the film, it may contain action scenes, romantic scenes, dialogue or a combination of these elements.
Originally, the trailer was conceived as a promotional tool by theater managers. In 1913, Nils Granlund spliced rehearsal footage of the play The Pleasure Seekers into a montage to be shown before films at Marcus Loew’s theaters. This gave rise to the trailer industry, which was largely run by theaters and studios until Herman Robbins created the National Screen Service in 1919 to create trailers on a large scale and increase profitability.
While the standard film trailer is still an essential promotional tool, contemporary filmmakers are increasingly reinterpreting this format to achieve new styles and aesthetics. For example, the directors of Blood Simple and Evil Dead deliberately inverted the traditional approach by presenting a truncated collage of what would be included in their final movies. This technique was hailed as an innovation at the time and influenced many other directors to experiment with a similar style.
Trailers have also been used as a way to misrepresent the content of a film. In addition to presenting actors who have only a minor role in the film, trailers can sometimes give audiences false representations of a film’s tone and action. One of the most famous examples is Alfred Hitchcock’s special shot trailer for Psycho, in which he takes the audience through the Bates Motel bathroom, eventually throwing back the shower curtain to reveal Vera Miles uttering her infamous scream.
In addition to film trailers, the trailer concept has been adapted to promote television shows, video games, books and theatrical events/concerts. A variant of the trailer is a teaser, which is a shorter cut of a trailer designed to generate interest in a project and build anticipation. Many successful websites have teasers for their videos, allowing the viewer to find out more about the content without having to watch the full video. These types of teasers can be released at intervals and are an effective way to boost a project’s online profile.