How Star Wars and the internet changed movie trailers

The Phantom Menace trailer was a sign of things to come. Since then, the release of a franchise blockbuster has only become more of an online event. Studios, under increasing pressure to post big opening weekend sales and in possession of ads people actually want to watch, have set about flooding platforms like YouTube and Facebook with all manner of trailers: multiple primary trailers, trailers to introduce characters, to highlight subplots, to target specific demographics or countries. The Force Awakens has run 17 trailers, teasers, and TV spots so far. Modern trailers shouldn’t just introduce and excite: for franchise films especially, they should link films together, hint at new directions, and provide fodder for fan debate and speculation, amplifying anticipation for free. The trailer-editing industry is growing to meet increasing demand, going from a dozen or so trailer houses 15 years ago to over a hundred today. They compete against each other, with several shops submitting multiple trailers for the studio’s selection.

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