The Price of Trailers
I think my fascination with film trailers began in college. Back in the 1970s, there were usually 2-3 trailers before a film and it was a given. But in Binghamton, the Crest Theater was known for showing tons of trailers, as many of fifteen minutes’ worth prior to the feature film and I was hooked. That was around the time the elevator pouring blood for The Shining became indelibly etched in our minds as fabulous teaser and awareness marketing. Not a single frame from the film but this torrent of blood streaming down the hotel corridor was enough to hook us.
During the 1980s, when I was working first for Starlog and then at DC, I would attend films and got to know film publicist Jeff Walker. Our friendship grew to the point where he would send me a complete set of trailers to show at cons he couldn’t attend. The Trailer Park panels (or whatever the con chose to call them), became a staple of media cons and was one reason I was constantly invited. The highlight may have been helping Jeff show trailers and take questions at the Millennial Philcon in 2000.
Studios, by then, recognized how important the trailers were to making audiences ware of coming films as competition for eyeballs increased thanks to video games, computers and cable television. Soon, E! and other channels devoted time slots to nothing but trailers. Studios cut deals to ensure that the last trailer seen was attached to their feature while studio chains could juggle what came before. By this point, theaters were running more and more trailers giving rise to the complaint that films were missing their scheduled start times and legislators even considered truth in advertising laws, although nothing came of them.
Every season we get teased with what is to come, notably during the holidays when studios whet our appetites for the coming summer blockbusters. Knowing fans eager flock to openings to get the first glimpse of the Next Big Thing. Studios feed that desire with exclusive looks at Imax theaters.
Now, I read in the Los Angeles Times that studios are being charged for showing trailers, another revenue stream for theaters who keep jacking up concession and ticket prices. Apparently, the unspoken rule is that each studio gets one free trailer and the rest get paid for. Several, but not all of the studios are giving in to the demands, but enough are to make this noteworthy.
The article states: “The competition is fierce, and prices high, to run a trailer in front of popular movies such as The Hobbit. Theater chains typically receive $25,000 to $100,000 to run a spot before a popular film at half their theaters — saving an equal amount of time at the other half of their theaters for another paid trailer.”
This certainly explains why I am now noticing we’re seeing fewer trailers than we did a year or five earlier. And that’s a shame since it is often the first time mass audiences (not geeks like us) are first aware these movies even exist.
We can carp about how their cut or if they give away too much/too little story at another time. But this story made me a little sad that something integral to my entertainment life has been compromised.