Coming Attractions

Coming Attractions

LiSA KERNAN
Copyright Date: 2004
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/706002
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  • Book Info
    Coming Attractions
    Book Description:

    Movie trailers-those previews of coming attractions before the start of a feature film-are routinely praised and reviled by moviegoers and film critics alike: "They give away too much of the movie." "They're better than the films." "They only show the spectacular parts." "They lie." "They're the best part of going to the movies." But whether you love them or hate them, trailers always serve their purpose of offering free samples of a film to influence moviegoing decision-making. Indeed, with their inclusion on videotapes, DVDs, and on the Internet, trailers are more widely seen and influential now than at any time in their history.

    Starting from the premise that movie trailers can be considered a film genre, this pioneering book explores the genre's conventions and offers a primer for reading the rhetoric of movie trailers. Lisa Kernan identifies three principal rhetorical strategies that structure trailers: appeals to audience interest in film genres, stories, and/or stars. She also analyzes the trailers for twenty-seven popular Hollywood films from the classical, transitional, and contemporary eras, exploring what the rhetorical appeals within these trailers reveal about Hollywood's changing conceptions of the moviegoing audience. Kernan argues that movie trailers constitute a long-standing hybrid of advertising and cinema and, as such, are precursors to today's heavily commercialized cultural forms in which art and marketing become increasingly indistinguishable.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79725-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-XIV)
  4. 1 Trailers: A Cinema of (Coming) Attractions
    (pp. 1-35)

    Trailers, or previews of coming attractions, are both praised and reviled by film scholars and regular moviegoers alike. “They give away too much of the movie.” “They’re better than the films.” “They only show the spectacular parts.” “All the best jokes are in the trailer.” “They lie.” “They’re the best part of going to the movies.” “They’re too loud.” At the same time, they are used by both groups precisely as they’re meant to be used, as free samples to aid in moviegoing decision making. And in the contemporary market, trailers’ reach is ever expanding, with their inclusion on videotapes,...

  5. 2 Trailer Rhetoric
    (pp. 36-77)

    The case studies in this book are analyses of specific trailers wherein I provide readings of their address to audiences. As I have pointed out, trailers are similar to, yet different from, other advertising, and the purpose of this chapter is to introduce the guiding principles of the analytic method I use in the case studies, by breaking down and describing key textual features and conventions of trailers’ persuasive techniques throughout the sound era, following a brief discussion of Aristotelian rhetoric and its value for film studies. Taking time to parse out trailers’ principal rhetorical appeals to audiences is important...

  6. 3 The Classical Era: The “Mythic Universal American”
    (pp. 78-119)

    From early in the classical era, trailers can be seen as contradictory in their address to audiences. Motion picture attendance reached its all-time high in 1946, and the conventional wisdom about the period is that studios did not yet need strategies to bring different kinds of “niche” audiences into the theater. But as Richard Maltby has pointed out, the classical era’s “undifferentiated audience,” while “a rhetorical trope vital to the industry’s claims to practice a form of cultural democracy,” was in practice understood as a hierarchy of differentiated groups that were implicitly addressed separately by the workings of the distribution...

  7. 4 The Transitional Era: Chasing the Elusive Audience
    (pp. 120-162)

    The era I identify as transitional is that period from the beginning of the 1950s through 1975, the watershed year associated with the release ofJawsand the emergence of blockbuster marketing. Market research was utilized increasingly during this time, with a correspondingly greater acknowledgment that there might be different audiences for different films, even as the theatrical trailer’s job remained to cast as wide a net as possible and maximize a film’s potential appeal. Trailers in the transitional era vary widely in style. The era encompassed two distinct periods of trailer production—the still National Screen Service–dominated fifties...

  8. 5 The Contemporary Era: The Global Family Audience
    (pp. 163-206)

    By 1975, the watershed year for New Hollywood, the market for motion pictures had undergone a number of transformations that affected how films were conceived and perceived both within the industry and by audiences. The corporate conglomeration and increased reliance on high concept blockbuster models already mentioned, along with new levels of marketing-driven promotional regimes that maximized synergies among related products (whether ancillary to films or product placements within them), impacted the trailer industry, resulting in high concept trailer formulas that were more predictable than those for transitional trailers. While markets for “niche” films have since expanded phenomenally in conjunction...

  9. 6 Conclusion. The Cinema Is Dead: Long Live the Cinema of (Coming) Attractions
    (pp. 207-218)

    In the digital environment, the proclamation of the “death of cinema” advanced (however ironically) by Jean-Luc Godard and others has new purchase, as the technology, production and distribution systems, reception practices and the very matter from which movies are made are all in the process of being irrevocably transformed.¹ The ability of trailers, a cinematic form displaying (reconfigured versions of) rhetorical conventions that date back to the early sound era, to pour themselves seamlessly into these new technologies and systems likeTerminator 2’s morphing man, speaks to their existence as a unique form of cinema. It is interesting that the...

  10. Filmography of Trailers Viewed
    (pp. 219-232)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 233-270)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 271-286)
  13. Index
    (pp. 287-294)