In 1913, an ad man by the name of Nils Granlund had the bright idea to show a promo film for a Broadway musical called The Pleasure Seekers. He slipped it in after a movie, and thus, the trailer was born.
One hundred and two years later, I quit trailers cold turkey.
The final straw was the second Terminator: Genisys promo. In the first trailer, Kyle Reese is sent back in time to save the clueless Sarah Connor per franchise canon. John Connor speaks to the plot of the original film: “The time you’re going back to, she was scared and weak. Take care of her for me, Kyle.” Suddenly an armored truck slams into a Terminator we’ve never seen before, the door swings open, and a gun-toting Sarah delivers the iconic “Come with me if you want to live” line.
I’m intrigued. Hyped, even. A beloved childhood series is throwing a wicked curveball that may finally recapture the magic of the first two movies.
Unfortunately, the marketing wizzes don’t stop there. The trailer runs on for another minute, and trailer #2 goes on to reveal the movie’s biggest plot twist, the end of the movie, and most of what happens in between.
Suffice it to say, I did not go to see Terminator: Genisys.
In theory, trailers serve a purpose: They inform people about upcoming movies and help them decide where to spend their hard-earned money. They make an impression—one that ideally lasts long enough for you to come back and see the whole show.
But while a good trailer can tantalize with just enough detail and nothing more (the Alien trailer comes to mind), the majority of trailer houses—in an effort to put asses in the seats—often show films’ best action sequences, funniest one-liners, or (at their worst) major plot points.
We can all agree that this sucks.
Spoilers weren’t always so common, back when we weren’t walking around with advertisement/text message devices in our pockets at all times. You saw a trailer once or twice and that was that. Now the constant deluge of promotional materials, in tandem with loose trailer editing, makes it so a person has to go out of their way to leave a movie unspoiled.
When I stopped watching trailers altogether, what I found was that every movie feels more exciting, more dramatic or funny, and above all, more unexpected. Trailer culture sets your expectations for a film or suggests a narrative arc before the movie ticket is in your hand. When you go in relatively blind, even little first-act moments surprise you. From the start, you become more immersed in the story.
So how do you know if a movie is worth seeing or not? The trick is cursory research, the same amount that would make you pick out a book. Read no more than a basic synopsis. Start seeing movies because a certain director made it, or that actor you like is in it, or a quality studio distributed it. You’ll find your moviegoing experiences significantly improved. If not, you can always go back to the trailers.