A Short History of Coming Attractions

 Jason Kehe and Katie M. Palmer trace the history of movie trailers in this Art of Trailer for Wired Magazine.

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We’re obsessed with movie trailers. This year fans watched more than a billion on YouTube and searched for trailers three times more than in 2008. And these numbers continue to grow as studios focus film-advertising dollars online. As soon as the latest movie teaser goes live, the web freaks out. Entertainment sites like IGN and Vulture post shot-by-shot deconstructions—some outlets like Slate even have dedicated trailer critics. Fans pull scenes apart and piece them back together as YouTube parodies. And the trailer editors, along with their studio overlords, monitor comment boards for instant reactions.

In short, these previews have become a thriving industry, almost as popular as that of the movies they’re teasing. But it wasn’t always this way. To understand shifts in trailers, we watched scores of them and analyzed their defining elements: title cards, voice-overs, music, number of cuts. Condensing what we learned into usable intel was like cutting a trailer ourselves—extracting essential elements, picking the choicest bits, and ultimately getting us excited for what’s to come—an age in which ever-savvier fans demand more (and better) trailers. Because really, 2013 is just a preview of coming attractions.

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