December 30, 2015
What 'The Force Awakens' Trailer Can Teach Hollywood About Creating Movie Trailers

Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer views are utterly insane.

Go to YouTube, and you will see that the three main trailers have been viewed over 182 million times --- so much that if each one of those views represented a paying customer, the film would have already grossed more than $1.5 billion, assuming an average U.S. ticket price total of $8.61.

According to Box Office Mojo, it has come close with a current worldwide take of around $1.2 billion as of December 29, but an apples-to-apples comparison would be current U.S. box office to trailer views, in which case, the hypothetical The Force Awakens trailer performance would have grossed close to $1 billion more than it currently has.

It's unrealistic to think that each trailer view will equate to a ticket sold, but what makes the seventh Star Wars film such an interesting case study is that a considerable portion of those trailer viewers, who probably watched it more than once, went on to buy a movie ticket.

That's unheard of with most movies today. And while Star Wars is a franchise with a lot of strength behind it, there is still much that studio marketing departments can learn from how The Force Awakens trailer was presented.

Image via Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer screen grab
[Image via Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trailer screen grab]For starters, the first trailer hit the web about a year before the movie released (November 28, 2014, ahead of the December 18 worldwide).

Disney had the luxury of knowing that whatever they put out into the world would fuel speculation for the year ahead, so they kept it brief, to just 90 seconds.

During the course of that first trailer, you get a very brief introduction to the new characters, and a bit of misdirection as to which character would be the lead.


The first character viewers actually get to see is Finn (John Boyega) in stormtrooper garb. There is a lot to chew on in this image.

Aside from the trivial aspect that some intolerant fans got hung up on -- that he was black -- there is the sense he's a good guy but he's wearing a bad guy's uniform. Is he at the tail end of a covert rescue operation? Is he a stormtrooper with a conscience?

The average audience member, who didn't follow the spoilers, had no idea. This created intrigue.

Also, fans get to meet Rey (Daisy Ridley), who turns out to be the lead character, but again, you couldn't tell that from the 90 seconds. You had an idea that she and the X-Wing pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), would be good guys, but you could confirm nothing from the footage.

You also got a brief glimpse at the adorable BB-8 droid that would power so much of the narrative.

The Force Awakens trailer didn't have to say a lot because it knew if it just gave a glimpse -- a proper introduction to each of the people audiences needed to care about -- fans would do the rest of the talking for them.

And that's what happened.

As the other two major trailers rolled out, then the teasers, Disney made sure they didn't give away too much.

In fact, most of the footage that you do see in the final clips is taken from the first half of the film. Wisely, the House of Mouse keeps the lid on the rest.

This is an art that has been lost on modern cinema.

Today, most movie trailers run between two and a half and three minutes, and by the end of each one, you know the entire film in broad strokes -- who the protagonist is, the bad guy, the major confrontations, etc.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a prime example of this.

By trying to "sell" the movie, they show you the entire trajectory of the plot, to which you're left wondering, "Why even go?"

Perhaps a better course of action for trailers moving forward is to borrow heavily from the Force Awakens trailer. Give the audience a glimpse of the people they are supposed to care about and perhaps a glimpse of the villain.

Focus on footage that takes place in only the first half of the film because, really, if there isn't enough interesting stuff going on in that part of the movie, it's doubtful that the last half will save it.

What did you think of The Force Awakens trailer, and do you enjoy watching current movie trailers, or do you feel they give away too much of the movie?

[All Images via Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer No. 1]