The View from My Seat archives


Published September 10, 2019


Have you seen any good movie trailers lately?

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

This column has not been approved by the Motion Picture Association of America.

I don’t know about you folks, but I am fed up with the number of trailers I am subjected to before the featured movie starts. I took my granddaughters to see a movie and I yawned through eight trailers. Last week I endured another movie that had seven.
Between commercials and trailers, moviegoers can wait 20 - 25 minutes before show time. By that time I am ready for my second bag of popcorn and another trip to the men’s room.

Theater owners and movie studios are on opposite sides of the issue.

The National Association of Theater Owners (yes, NATO) agrees with me. The organization has heard so many complaints about trailers that it has tried to shorten the time for trailers by limiting each trailer to 2 minutes.

Theater owners also worry that trailers are hurting attendance by giving away the plots and revealing the best parts of a movie. AdWeek revealed that trailers for "The Amazing Spider Man" showed 18 percent or 25 minutes of the film in its marketing.

The problem is so bad that the French have banned putting anything in trailers from the last 15 minutes of a movie.

Movie studios, in contrast, want more trailers and fewer restrictions. They have leverage. Studios will threaten to hold back a popcorn movie, such as a "Harry Potter" or "Star Wars" sequel, unless a theater chain agrees to play a full reel of the studio’s trailers.

I used to look forward to the coming attractions. It was fun looking at my wife and exchanging thoughts on whether we should plan on seeing the upcoming movie. Now she looks at me, and I am dozing off.

Up until the 1950s, there were usually only 2 or 3 trailers before a movie, and all trailers were produced by the National Screen Service, a company formed in 1920 to produce and distribute trailers on behalf of the studios.

Those trailers featured bold type, stuffy narrative and didn’t reveal much of the plot. When you think of a classic, old-school trailer, you’re thinking of an NSS trailer.

Things started to change in the early 1960s. Trailers became an art form, and directors got involved.

Alfred Hitchcock’s "Psycho" trailer lasted almost seven minutes and offered a personal tour of the Bates Motel. The script was written by the same man who wrote the monologues in "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and the "Alfred Hitchcock Hour."

The trailer deliberately misdirects the audience. Even the “blonde” in the show who screams at the end isn’t Janet Leigh … it is Vera Miles in a wig.

There was classic captioning at the end:

Caption: The picture you MUST see from the beginning …

Caption: Or not at all! ... for no one will be seated after the start of …

Caption: Alfred Hitchcock’s Greatest Shocker. “Psycho”

The release of blockbusters in the late 1970s and early 1980s brought trailers that were cut like mini-movies. They were bombastic and told you everything you needed to know about all the best parts of the film.

What makes sitting through the trailers even worse nowadays is that serious moviegoers have already seen many of them on the Internet or television. There are websites devoted to trailers and movie reviews written just off the trailers. Trailers for "50 Shades of Grey" had 93 million views on YouTube, although I doubt the quality of the movie was the attraction.

The way the industry is heading, don’t be surprised if, coming soon to a theater near you, there are trailers that have won Oscars.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at