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Trailers Have Become as Big as the Films They Promote

In the Dark Ages, i.e. pre-Internet, you had to schlep to a local cinema to watch a trailer, and then wait for weeks — or even months — to buy a ticket to the actual movie. But today, you can just go online, anytime, anywhere, and check out a trailer, and even buy a ticket at the same time.

“It’s completely changed the equation, and trailer viewing makes up the vast majority of video views on our site and mobile apps,” says Dave Karger, chief correspondent at Fandango. “And a movie trailer has become almost as much of an event as the actual movie itself, because all the studios make a huge deal out of premiering their trailers, which can get millions of views in a few days. It’s become one of the most popular activities for all movie fans.”

Trailer viewing online has also become doubly important for a site like Fandango, “as we’re the one place where you can watch a trailer and instantly buy a ticket on the same page,” he adds.

To cater to increasing demand and to capitalize on this trend, the site recently acquired Movieclips, the leading movie presence on YouTube, consisting of Movieclips.com and 25 YouTube channels, including the No. 1 movie trailers channel. Karger notes that, with more than 7 million subscribers, the Movieclips network averages 200 million video views per month. “It’s a huge audience out there.”

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Fandango is also launching a service offering HD movie trailers with fully embedded ticketing capabilities on Samsung Smart TVs for the first time.

Angie Barrick, head of industry and entertainment at Google, points out that such new technology coupled with heavy trailer exposure also helps push the needle far closer to e-commerce for the studios, when sites offer both content and point-of-purchase. “It’s the future, especially when you consider that film trailer views on YouTube have more than doubled in just the past year,” she says.

According to Barrick, “elaborate event trailers,” especially for the big summer releases like “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” have become big business in the era of the 24-hour news cycle, especially sites that cater to the entertainment biz.

“All the studios know that when they release a trailer on YouTube, they can tease out all sorts of insights about how people are reacting to that content — and across all formats and demographics. How many people are engaging on mobile devices? On tablets?”

Barrick reports that Hollywood’s “huge interest” in such trailer data and the company’s willingness to share its data with the studios “has helped drive the shift of lots of trailer releases on YouTube, and helped them really shape their movie marketing campaigns. They can see exactly what components of the trailer audiences are really reacting to.”

As an example, she cites the upcoming June 6 release “The Fault in Our Stars,” the romantic comedy weeper starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. “The trailer is huge on YouTube, and it quickly became this big event in and of itself, which is really saying something about how people look at trailers today.

“If you have 20 million views, and they’re all posting it on their Facebook pages and sharing it on their Twitter feeds and so on, it just grows and grows into this monster event.”

While this may be the business model of the future, there are still a few notable old-school exceptions.

“Apparently, in a retro move, Warner Bros. has decided to premiere the trailer for ‘Interstellar’ in theaters only.

“But when you have a filmmaker like Chris Nolan, who still prefers film over digital, you can tear up the playbook,” says Karger. “And I’d imagine he’s the kind of filmmaker who doesn’t really want fans watching his trailer first on their smart phones or tablets. He wants them to see it on a huge screen.”

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