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Discuss: Do Movie Trailers Give Away Too Much? New Study Says 50% Of Audiences Think Yes

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by Charlie Schmidlin
May 2, 2013 9:57 AM
13 Comments
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To anticipate a film nowadays is to wonder what its tipping point into overexposure will be. “Iron Man 3” is set to open tomorrow -- have you stayed away from trailers completely, or have you paid attention to every casting announcement and TV spot, hoping they won't reveal one set-piece too many? It's that question of enjoyment linked to movie marketing that a new study hoped to investigate, and the results are both predictable and surprising in equal measure.

According to the YouGov Omnibus survey findings, taken at the end of April, half of Americans think that movie trailers reveal far too much from the films they promote, with 16% of people strongly in agreement. However, the results also found that trailer spoilers would stop only about 19% of respondents from still attending the film, while on the opposite end, 24% said that they would actually want to see the film more.

As we begin to enter the summer movie season, filmgoers might feel an ominous shudder echo from this time last year, when “Prometheus” was launching its creepy and evocative trailers. Once Ridley Scott's film was released that June, what we thought were tantalizing hints of scenes turned out to be full-on reveals (including the climax), and audiences were left disappointed before they could even consider the film on a critical level.

Flight” and "Stoker” were two recent films also tagged with trailers dangerously close to oversharing, and this summer finds some prime candidates as well. “This Is The End” has unfortunately revealed the majority of its celebrity cameos in its trailer (but left its apocalyptic threat hidden, thankfully), while “Kick Ass 2” and even “Pacific Rim” could be seen as possibly revealing too much at this point.

The recent study group showed that plot or storyline is the most important aspect to the surveyed moviegoers' decision (77%), followed by cast (45%), genre (22%), director (20%), and then source material (15%). But which aspect do you feel to be the most integral, and how do you prefer your trailers, if at all: “The Master” or “Men in Black III”?

Leave your comments below, and check out some trailers for recent and upcoming movies -- Too much? Not enough? Just right? [THR]

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13 Comments

  • Nunya | March 8, 2014 12:23 PMReply

    There are a slew of movies I have declined to see in the theater or rent because the trailer basically showed the whole movie from start to buildup to climax to finish. Cool, now I know the entire plot from start to finish before paying any money...FAIL!! "Getaway" and "Carrie" trailers are prime examples. every major plot point the backstory AND main characters react/respond to what is happening to them shown. In all honesty, trailers that reveal this much have always been for movies that are complete stinkers. I suppose I should thank them for that, actually. It saved me some cash.

    I think the worst offense regards the horror movie trailers. I normally don't care about horror movie plots. I just want to be scared, but I've stopped watching them all together. I'm a horror movie fanatic and love to be scared. That's impossible when all all the parts that are supposed to make you jump are shown in the trailer. What's worse is that some trailers even show the suspenseful buildup to a scene that makes you jump, like the closet clapper in The Conjuring trailer. It didn't scare me at all when I saw it in the theater because I knew exactly what was going to happen.

    I feel like the movie industry is robbing us of an even better movie experience by doing this. Theres not one person I know who doesn't complain about this. I think the other 50% who didn't agree are those who don't see a lot of movie trailers for one reason or another, such as they don't watch a lot of tv, only watch shows on streaming devices ( I used to be one of those and never knew what movies where coming out), or are just too damn dense to figure it out.

  • Nunya | March 8, 2014 12:23 PMReply

    There are a slew of movies I have declined to see in the theater or rent because the trailer basically showed the whole movie from start to buildup to climax to finish. Cool, now I know the entire plot from start to finish before paying any money...FAIL!! "Getaway" and "Carrie" trailers are prime examples. every major plot point the backstory AND main characters react/respond to what is happening to them shown. In all honesty, trailers that reveal this much have always been for movies that are complete stinkers. I suppose I should thank them for that, actually. It saved me some cash.

    I think the worst offense regards the horror movie trailers. I normally don't care about horror movie plots. I just want to be scared, but I've stopped watching them all together. I'm a horror movie fanatic and love to be scared. That's impossible when all all the parts that are supposed to make you jump are shown in the trailer. What's worse is that some trailers even show the suspenseful buildup to a scene that makes you jump, like the closet clapper in The Conjuring trailer. It didn't scare me at all when I saw it in the theater because I knew exactly what was going to happen.

    I feel like the movie industry is robbing us of an even better movie experience by doing this. Theres not one person I know who doesn't complain about this. I think the other 50% who didn't agree are those who don't see a lot of movie trailers for one reason or another, such as they don't watch a lot of tv, only watch shows on streaming devices ( I used to be one of those and never knew what movies where coming out), or are just too damn dense to figure it out.

  • Nunya | March 8, 2014 12:23 PMReply

    There are a slew of movies I have declined to see in the theater or rent because the trailer basically showed the whole movie from start to buildup to climax to finish. Cool, now I know the entire plot from start to finish before paying any money...FAIL!! "Getaway" and "Carrie" trailers are prime examples. every major plot point the backstory AND main characters react/respond to what is happening to them shown. In all honesty, trailers that reveal this much have always been for movies that are complete stinkers. I suppose I should thank them for that, actually. It saved me some cash.

    I think the worst offense regards the horror movie trailers. I normally don't care about horror movie plots. I just want to be scared, but I've stopped watching them all together. I'm a horror movie fanatic and love to be scared. That's impossible when all all the parts that are supposed to make you jump are shown in the trailer. What's worse is that some trailers even show the suspenseful buildup to a scene that makes you jump, like the closet clapper in The Conjuring trailer. It didn't scare me at all when I saw it in the theater because I knew exactly what was going to happen.

    I feel like the movie industry is robbing us of an even better movie experience by doing this. Rees not one person I know wo doesn't complain about this. I think the other 50% who didn't agree are those who don't see a lot of movie trailers for one reason or another, such as they don't watch a lot of tv, only watch shows on streaming devices ( I used to be one of tose and never knew what movies where coming out), or are just toto damn dense to figure it out.

  • Tim Hare | July 18, 2013 12:17 PMReply

    Yes, the previews give WAY, way, WAY too much of the movie. I pay good money to see movies in the theatre and I'm tired of recognizing every scene in a movie before I go, I'm tired of not finding things funny in the movie because I've seen them in commercials over and over again, I'm tired of sometimes seeing the entire premise of the movie from the starting scenes to the developing story to the climax of a film all shown in fast mini clips.

    With a little creativity, the creators can make a preview that shows what the movie is about without revealing ANY of the plot or ANY of the characters or content, but I'd be more than willing to meet them halfway. But we don't meet halfway, we meet on the polar opposite of a tease, where every aspect of the movie is bare for all to see. You can reveal plenty with very little, not all people are slack-jawed yokels unable to take a hint. These previews are so overly-comprehensible because they are being treated just as if they were other television commercials, you know, the ones where they sit there and numb your mind for 5 minutes with a happy jingle, a not funny anecdote, or simply naming their product repetitively so you'll never forget. The point of this is to manipulate you into buying something you don't need, and they're good at it, they pour so much money into advertising research that everything advertised is in turn more expensive than it should be, and to a certain extent the same is true with the movies you see. This kind of mentality isn't necessary for movie commercials, because movie's aren't useless products that adorn your credit card statement, no, they're supposed to be escapes from the overwhelming bombardment of people who want things from you, and the advertising that makes it all possible.

    An example of too much previews isn't hard to come by, so here's one that I actually turned to the person beside me in the theatre and said "They just showed the whole movie...": Carrie (the upcoming remake) is a cookie-cutter rehash of the original Steven King story with literally the exact same plot, yet even if you HAVEN'T seen the original; you get to endure 3-4 minutes of every pivotal scene in the movie so you might as well have had been there to see the movie.

    I refuse to believe that the masses will not go see a movie unless they're already comfortable with the plot, and know all the characters, and know several scenes. I've heard before but cannot remember where : "People don't want to see something new, they want to see something they've seen over and over again" (almost like they subconsciously salivate for the scenes they know are coming). I think people want to see new things as well as old things, adventure and nostalgia.

  • Steve S. Grant | May 3, 2013 8:32 AMReply

    Movie trailers do spoil the plot. After seeing a preview, you know who’s in the movie, who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy, who’s going to have sex with who and who’ll probably die or go to jail at the end. In that order.

    That being said, it is what it is, a selling tool. A complicated tool.

  • Ben | May 2, 2013 3:34 PMReply

    I don't think trailers should give everything away -- but at the same time, I think it is really, really important that the trailers do convey what the movie is really about. The "Prometheus" campaign was a disaster but one of the big issues was that no one knew what the movie was (even, arguably, the people who were making it.) Prior to release, if you asked 10 different avid movie-goers what the movie's story was, they gave ten different answers. "It's an Alien-prequel." "It's not an Alien prequel." "It's an Alien prequel but it's got its own story." "You will see the Alien." "You won't." Was it sci-fi or horror? Or both? Or neither? All this confusion skewed people's expectations WILDLY. And there was no way one movie could meet all of them. And so, I think the secrecy campaign at the beginning really played against them at the end. So, in a panic, they cut trailers that tried to lay everything out, which went the polar opposite extreme.

    A movie like "Flight", for example, did a very poor job of telling audiences what it was about. My Mom went to see it "expecting a disaster movie" and an investigation procedural into what caused the crash. Instead, she got a movie about Denzel's alcoholism and she felt a bait-and-switch. No matter how good Denzel was, she felt ripped off because the trailers held a lot of the movie close to the vest.

    I honestly believe people are over-estimating how much they like to be surprised. The same people who tell me they prefer secrecy and are "spoiler-free" people are the ones who read the book before the movie and then, if the movie deviates from the book, they get irate (wouldn't that be a "surprise"?)

    Some things need to stay secret. But if everything is secret, you'll invent your own movie in your head prior to sitting down in the theater and it's very tough for any movie, no matter how surprising, to live up to those expectations.

    Movie tickets are just too expensive for film-goers to gamble on something they might not be interested in. And thus, we have the trailers we get.

  • Juanito | May 2, 2013 12:51 PMReply

    I totally agree. It's good to be surprised by a movie and not know much about it. It's particularly true with comedies where they show all the funny stuff in the trailer.

    One trailer I saw a few days ago and really like is "Neighboring Sounds" (O som ao redor). I still have to watch it but you can feel the tension (awesome music by Serge Gainsbourg) and you know something wrong will happen but you just don't know what and why.

  • Nick | May 2, 2013 12:11 PMReply

    Prometheus was the final straw for me. Such an incredibly well made trailer but gave away pretty much everything. What is so sad is they could have had a great trailer without giving away the entire f****** movie. I try to only watch teaser trailers now and when I can't avoid the endless marketing for movies I want to see (Superman and Elysium for example this summer) I close my eyes and cover my ears.

  • Paul | May 2, 2013 10:46 PM

    I'm with you, Nick. When I am watching a trailer for a movie I am genuinely excited about seeing, the chances are I won't be watching the end. Quite often I watch half and think to myself 'well, that looks amazing, no need to watch any more of that!'

    I do love watching movies with a fresh perspective and am not a fan of spoilers. Yes, I read movie news and quite often have read the source material (one person above complains that people who dislike spoilers are often the same ones who have read the novel - I certainly wouldn't complain about spoilers unless I was unfamiliar with the material), but I still like to be surprised when I go to the movies.

  • Jason | May 2, 2013 11:34 AMReply

    I think if the marketing companies would just decide on one teaser and one trailer, this wouldn't even be an issue. Also, it depends on the genre of the movie. If it's a comedy, don't reveal the funniest parts in the trailer (even though people laugh at it in the theaters after seeing it in the trailer). If it's an action movie don't reveal the most eye-popping scenes of the movie. The perfect trailer I have seen was probably Casino Royale.

  • Matt R | May 2, 2013 10:56 AMReply

    I think the best trailer in recent time was that Vine post they did for The Wolverine.

  • Alan B | May 2, 2013 10:38 AMReply

    Yeah, and critics seem to be more interested in recapping the plot as opposed to giving readers any genuine insights into the filmmakers' approach. I don't want to name na... RODRIGO PEREZ.

  • Taylor | May 2, 2013 10:17 AMReply

    I think the best recent trailer in terms of how much of the plot was revealed was "The Place Beyond The Pines". Very intriguing trailer and it didn't ruin any of the plot twists (it could be argued the trailer made the twists even more shocking).

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