It’s not true.
I recently attended a showing of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) in New York’s Times Square where a nearly uncountable number of loud, obnoxious previews appeared before the movie started. These trailers were coupled with commercials and the usual cinematic pleas to turn off cell phones and enjoy the expensive refreshments provided by the concessions areas – making the wait even longer for the feature film.
Surprisingly, the audience didn’t groan in agony. In fact, everyone was quite patient. Most people were quiet.
I was not one of them.
I’ve elaborated in the past about my predilection for talking during movies. I haven’t suggested that my right to do so is any more enhanced by the proliferation of previews prior to the picture’s appearance. But it should be. I don’t hesitate to give a thumb’s down to any snippet that rubs me the wrong way while vocalising my displeasure. I did that during the preliminaries to Guardians of the Galaxy. Showing no fear, I just said no to those pooey previews.
What I couldn’t do, however, was transform them into clips that were worth watching.
I’ve been lamenting what’s become of the trailer for a while now – at least internally. My wife has heard a lot about it. This is not to say that I find the previews of yore any more appealing; Turner Classic Movies (TCM) often finds and shows vintage ones prior to their main events, and they’re invariably as quaint and ridiculous as today’s are abrasive. Still, one thing they didn’t do as much was misrepresent motion pictures, and that’s one of the issues that disturbs me most about today’s current harvest. There’s a tendency to suggest, in the preview, that a film is something else than what it actually is, and that’s a big problem.
The most offensive examples of this in recent memory to me are the clips advertising Philomena (2013), Stephen Frears’ sad, only semi-triumphant account of a woman who embarks on a search to find her lost son, whom she gave up years earlier for adoption. I remember the previews vividly: They focused on the charming, quirky nature of the film, homing in on the title character’s bemusement at the size of American portions, as well as her colleague’s admission that he’d actually met her son some time ago. These snippets were cute, wholesome, disarming, even sentimental. And entirely different from what the film turned out to be: dark and upsetting, an indictment of a controversial practice that occurred in the middle of the last century during which babies were taken from new mothers at a convent and sent away – with more of a scolding for the “transgressors” than consoling.
There’s a marketing-slash-business point to trailers, and movie theatres probably couldn’t do without them. I gather some people like them as well. They’re part of our cultural fabric, an inextricable swath of our cinema heritage, and they sufficiently tout upcoming films to captive audiences. Yet they shouldn’t be saying one thing when the pictures deliver another. That’s an issue, and it should be corrected. It’s bound to cause a lot of disappointment, and possibly more, if it continues on this path of misrepresentation.
I don’t like how loud trailers have become or how sharply edited they are. I don’t like that they’re all advertised like “action” movies regardless of their genres. I don’t like how they use music from un-cited sources to pitch an unrelated film. I mean, how many times can you use Verdi’s Requiem in a preview, huh?
But worst of all is claiming a movie’s this or that when it’s actually something else. It’s akin to lying, and it lessens credibility. Do the studios really want that?
They may not care. We are captive audiences, anyway, and no one’s going to revolt in a theatre against a trailer that doesn’t do a picture a solid. You gotta wonder, however, if the powers that be do care about audience attendance and whether a plethora of putrid previews plus ads – coupled with upwards of 15 bucks for the price of just one ticket – could lead to viewers staying home. Recent numbers from Box Office Mojo may not suggest that this is exactly the reason, but they do speak to something: In August 2014, total grosses reached $655.4 million versus $841.4 million during the same period the previous year (at time of publication). That’s something, and even a big hit such as Guardians of the Galaxy hasn’t made up the difference … yet.
I’m not saying people are sick of previews, nor am I saying they’re automatically a bad thing. I do think, however, that they need to be better crafted to hold audiences’ attention and deliver the right goods. They can’t just say what the studios want them to say. They should say what the movies need them to say. Otherwise, people will just brush them off and find new reasons to watch on-demand flicks from their sofas.
We’ve come to the nadir already where previews are concerned. This is the worst. They can only get better, right?