A trailer (also known as a film preview, coming attraction or attraction video) is a promotional featurette that advertises and markets a full-length motion picture. Trailers are used to generate interest, excitement and advance ticket sales. They are also used to promote television shows, video games, books and theatrical events/concerts.

Emotional Contagion

A successful trailer draws the audience in emotionally and sets the stage for what is to come, whether it’s awe or fear, joy or sorrow, laughter or tears. Those moments that resonate with the viewer are what create anticipation for a film’s storyline, characters and plot development. The best trailers evoke the emotions of surprise, wonder, and suspense while leaving audiences wanting more.

The history of film trailers began in 1913 when Nils Granlund, advertising manager for the Marcus Loew theaters, spliced rehearsal footage from Broadway play The Pleasure Seekers into a mini-promotional montage that trailed films in his theaters. The practice grew to become a powerful marketing tool with an expanding reach that continues to evolve as technology changes.

Trailers have a unique and important function in movie marketing that converts viewers into eager patrons lining up for the opening night. An artfully edited and engaging trailer functions as a miniature movie in its own right, taking the audience on a gripping journey from setup to climax. By introducing key characters and themes, conveying the film’s genre, and utilizing psychological techniques, the trailer leads the audience into an expansive movie that they will be willing to pay for and see in the theater.

Successful trailers have a clear call to action at the end of the trailer that tells the audience what they should do next, which could be visiting the film’s website, buying tickets or following it on social media. They are also usually short and snappy to keep audiences engaged, especially online where viewers can abandon a video after just a few seconds.

Many effective trailers have a three-act structure that mirrors the structure of the film itself. Act 1 lays out the premise of the film, Act 2 drives the story forward with tension and emotional impact, and Act 3 culminates in the dramatic climax. They also feature a prominent logo for the production company, directors, and cast along with a memorable final sell including the film’s release date and title.

Creating an impactful trailer requires an understanding of human psychology and emotion as well as technical knowledge of filmmaking. It takes a fine balance of what to show and what not to show, and when and how to reveal it. Trailers need to communicate a clear genre, tone, and stakes while establishing the film’s star power through an impressive visual montage and showcasing emotional peaks and payoffs.

A trailer should also be targeted to its intended audience, with a specific target age range and demographic. Finally, the trailer should have a distinct look and feel that is in line with the film’s visual style.