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How do you solve a problem like trailers?

Gemma Horton argues it's time for trailers to stop spoiling the film for audiences.

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[caption id="attachment_115818" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Bilbo Baggins realises he already saw this scene in the trailer.
Bilbo Baggins realises he already saw this scene in the trailer.

Do you ever go to see a film based on a trailer you've seen? Have you ever felt underwhelmed afterwards, as if the trailer betrayed you? According to a recent study by the University of East Anglia, 80% of 500 film goers said that they felt disappointed with a feature film after seeing the trailer. A lot of people feel that trailers give away too much and only show the best bits; but is this true? A good example would be The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug. For those who don't know, the film ended on a complete cliffhanger, with characters' fates remaining uncertain, and viewers left wondering what will happen. There were multiple yells of horror when the screen went blank. However, the recent trailer for the sequel seems to have forgotten that cliffhanger. But do viewers want to see any spoilers from trailers? Would they rather not wait until the film is released to regain the suspense the previous film left? Some viewers suggest that people should read the books, but some films aren't adapted from books and not everyone has enough time to read the books, or they simply don't wish to read.

Trailers are shown on television, at cinemas and on YouTube. They are often inescapable. They are often crucial in persuading people to go to the cinema and see a film. Without them many people may not know a film is being released, especially if it is not part of a sequence. Trailers are quite simply fundamental in helping people decide whether or not a film is worth seeing.

But there are often some who feel as though trailers show the best bits of a film. The creators of The Inbetweeners 2, Iain Morris and Damon Beasley, promised that they wouldn't do this: 'We're especially happy with the trailer as we think it's funny and - we promise - none of the best jokes are in it.' This approach seemed to work as the film became highly grossing and the jokes in the film were unpredictable and not seen in the trailer. That is the way a trailer should be done. The entire plot shouldn't be given away. A trailer doesn't need to last between two and three minutes and reveal the majority of the film in that time. It should give you an idea of what the film is about and nothing more. The idea should be enough to hook a viewer and leave the rest to their imagination until they have no other option but to see the film to see what happens.

Trailers are often more anticipated than the film itself these days, and there is often more than one trailer. With mini clips and two or three official trailers being released, the surprise of a film can often be spoiled. One example is of Tom Hanks in Castaway, where the final scene of the film was shown in the trailer and the plot spoiled. What is the point of watching a film if you know what will happen? Compare this with Christopher Nolan's Interstellar trailer, which barely gives anything away about the plot or what will happen. Unpredictability is the best way to gain an audience's attention.

Trailers will always be used as a marketing tool to engage the audience, but as soon as they go too far and reveal too much that engagement is lost. There is no point in paying for a ticket if you know the plot.


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