What if… Trailers could only use the first thirty minutes of the movie?

It is a long standing complaint but trailers are giving too much of the movies away. Watch any of the recent trailers for the upcoming summer blockbusters and you feel like you’ve seen most of the movie, or at least the good parts. I’m used to this though and have made my peace with it.

What I wasn’t expecting was the same issue with a drama released this January. The trailer for Room set the scene, a Mother trapped in a room with her son, a boy who had never seen the outside world. Unfortunately, the movie then gave away so much of the story and the direction of the movie that it killed any tension within the film, ruining some of the tense moments because the trailer had already signposted the outcome.

The trailer for room revealed a lot of the movie

This made me wonder; what if movies could only use scenes from the first thirty minutes of their movie? This should manage the potential for spoilers and mean that we get some creative trailers. It may even start putting the emphasis back on what trailers should be about, advertising and gaining excitement for a film.

This wouldn’t be too difficult to do either. Any movie should be able to lay down a convincing teasing trailer only using the first act. The set-up for any decent movie is in the first act anyway and if you can’t entice people with these scenes, then maybe your movie isn’t that good.

The trailer for Star Wars gave very little away

Take the best recent example of how to do a trailer. The first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was mainly comprised of scenes from the first thirty minutes. The chase in the Millennium Falcon, the reveal of Finn as a Stormtrooper, BB8 zipping across the sand. These elements were mainly from the first act and the excitement for the movie was no less. It also spoiled none of the actual film in any considerable way.

This may even inspire some creativity in the marketing. It is very easy to pull the biggest reveals or biggest explosions or best dialogue from the film to make a trailer but if you have to create something enticing from only thirty minutes of footage, maybe we get trailers that aren’t just flashes of images with loud, booming music over the top.

It may force a little more creativity in the trailers

It could even go one step further. Knowing that the first thirty minutes are going to make or break the movie could change the way in which the movie is written in the first place. It could mean exciting openings or quicker lead-ins to the story. It would also mean people could watch the trailers without fear of having major plot points revealed or the experience ruined.

Overall, only being able to use the first thirty minutes of a movie for the trailer would solve so many problems. It would stop any potential spoilers, would mean we get some more creative trailers and maybe even change the movies themselves. Unfortunately, I doubt it is a challenge any movie studio will be taking on any time soon.

I’ll just keep on avoiding trailers…
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7 comments

  1. Yes, its a good idea, but I can see one potential problem. This may mean that the more studio-driven films may actually change the movies to fit more “exciting imagery” into the first 30 minutes even if it doesn’t belong.

  2. It’s a tragic problem – I try to avoid any trailers online, in the cinema and even on telly these days. Like you say, it just wrecks any enjoyment and surprise from the film. Some trailers use scenes that aren’t even in the final cut.

    Mark Kermode has a good piece about this in one of his books. Basically, since the studios stopped promoting their own films and palmed that over to separate marketing companies, they just need to get as many bums on seats as possible, and don’t mind doing whatever it takes in order to get you in to the foyer.

    I think the old rule was that studios only used to use footage from the first reel (around 25 mins) of the film.

    • That would make more sense. The issue will always be that when a movie is considered a success only if it reaches over $500 million dollars that marketing needs to push the movie, no matter what.

    • I don’t know if I could do that. I love trailers. Often they are better than the film they are advertising and are definitely a big part of me getting excited for the movie!

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