It’s been almost a year since I stopped watching trailers. And I couldn’t be happier. That’s worth considering if you’re losing your mind about an 88-second trailer for a Star Wars movie that won’t be out for another 12 months.
The end for me came with, of all things, Captain America. Like pretty much every other movie trailer that has been released on the internet over the last 15 years, when the first few Winter Soldier previews were released, I soaked them up. They looked great! Loads of action, big fight scenes, massive special effects.
Then I saw the movie. And all the best parts had already been in those trailers. Total letdown. It got me thinking: just why, exactly, had I watched all those trailers? I’d sacrificed the enjoyment of the actual movie for some advance gratification, and in the end, it hadn’t been worth it. So I decided to stop, and try whenever/where possible (it’s a bit hard to skip them in an actual cinema) to avoid trailers. Aside from a few accidental glances here and there, I’ve been cold turkey for most of 2014 now.
It feels great! I’ve been seeing movies based on summaries, ratings and recommendations, and while I don’t think this is having much of an effect on the type of movie I’m watching, it’s at least guaranteeing that everything I see in them is fresh, and as a result I feel like I’ve been enjoying movies more than I have in years.
I get it, the temptation to watch something in advance is strong, and in many cases might even be necessary if you’re going to decide whether to watch something or not. How would you have known what the hell Interstellar, something not based on a comic or book, was about if you hadn’t seen a trailer? You could read about it, or be invested simply in the personnel involved, but if not then sure, watch a trailer. But try watching only one. If you end up watching 3, 4 or even five clips before a 120-minute movie is released, there’s a chance you’ll have seen up to ten minutes of the flick already, which is just nuts. Especially since those ten minutes may include some of a movie’s biggest scenes!
Take a step back and remember what a trailer is actually for. It’s a hook, aimed at getting you into the cinema to watch the movie that’s being advertised. A movie studio doesn’t care if they spoil the story for you, if you paid for a ticket and your arse is in a seat, their job is done. That’s why people are freaking out about the new Star Wars trailers, or why we get the 2014 absurdity of teaser trailers for trailers; everyone is going to see these big movies anyway, but whatever, the marketing machine rolls on and fans (and websites) are caught right up in the cycle.
If it sounds like I’m just being a grump, it’s not just me: earlier this year the National Association of Theatre Owners, America’s trade group for cinemas, released new guidelines aimed at cutting down on the length of trailers. Part of that decision had to do with advertising (longer trailers meant less time for commercials), but also, as this LA Times story reports, because of fears trailers “reveal too many plot lines”.
So yeah, if you feel like modern marketing and the cult of trailers is showing you too much too soon and spoiling your enjoyment of the finished product, take a step back. Skipping trailers won’t kill you. In fact, if you’re anything like me you’ll find that avoiding them only makes the movie better.