Designing this research project around our respondents’ experiences can be seen in Question 1 ‘What was the last trailer you viewed?’, which didn’t point them towards a trailer we had picked (that we thought was new, interesting or for another reason), but asked them to list the most recent trailer they’d viewed. Their answers led to others already discussed in these blog posts – including where they viewed, why, what they liked about it, etc.
But in this post, I want to think about the responses we got to Q1, and what they can tell us about people’s memory for trailers. In particular, I want to think through popular film titles, and two different subsets around trailer media and trailers as research/memory aids.
Most popular trailer titles
First, let’s look at some of the data:
· 525 people responded to this question
· As we’ve discussed in other posts and through the press coverage, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug was listed most often (5.5% of responses, or 29 respondents)
· The 2nd highest response, however, was ‘Don’t remember’ (5.1% / 27 respondents), which might underline the fact that trailers remain an ephemeral experience for some audience members
· 3rd: The Amazing Spiderman 2 (4.1%, 22 respondents)
· 4th: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (3.8%, 20 respondents)
· 5th: Anchorman 2 (3.0%, 16 respondents)
· 6th (equal): Gravity / The Wolf of Wall Street (2.8%, 15 respondents)
· 8th: Godzilla (2.6%, 14 respondents)
· 9th (equal): Frozen / Saving Mr Banks / 12 Years a Slave (1.9%, 10 respondents)
Even taking those initial 10 titles, it is clear that respondents appear to be viewing the bigger trailer releases of the December 2013-March 2014 time period during which the survey ran (good news for the studios releasing said titles, then). Just outside that top 10, and peeking at the later end of the survey, were titles like The LEGO Movie or Guardians of the Galaxy that equally fit within the mainstream trailer release schedule. The presence of Wolf of Wall Street and 12 Years a Slave likely point to nominations/ successes at various awards ceremonies.
It would, however, be unfair to consider this a list of the most successful trailers. For a start, what are we regarding as ‘success’ here, beyond the fact that a larger number had viewed that trailer last before completing our survey? Simply viewing a trailer cannot be taken as a sign of enjoyment or future movie attendance. Equally, the poor showing of the X-Men: Days of Future Past trailer (3 participants), or Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2 participants) seems to speak more to the release date of those trailers, than the content of them.
Given many of our respondents discussed the trailer in light of ‘entertainment research’ for future viewing, it might be useful in a later survey to move away from ‘last trailer viewed’ to consider the retention of knowledge and specific content over a longer period. Equally, moving away from ‘last trailer viewed’ might allow other films, genres or franchises to be represented.
Television and video game trailers
One interesting result of asking about ‘last trailer viewed’ was that while we didn’t specify ‘film trailer’, most respondents assumed that was what we were talking about. Yet there was a subset of responses that clearly referred to television or video game trailers:
1. 38 separate respondents (7.2%) listed a television programme ‘trailer’
2. The highest rated television programme trailer (Sherlock: 1.5%, 8 respondents) came in at joint 14th on the full chart
3. The 2nd highest television entry is ‘TV trailer’ (0.7%, 4 respondents), largely mirroring the ‘can’t remember’ category of film trailers (see above)
4. Of the other TV titles, Doctor Who and Game of Thrones got 3 responses each, with single responses for another 17 programmes
5. Only 3 video games were listed (0.5%), all individual titles
Again, these trailers are arguably the major releases in the time period (Sherlock debuted on New Year’s Day 2014, the Doctor Who Christmas special aired on Christmas Day 2013, Game of Thrones was broadcast in Spring 2014), suggesting a similar clustering of activity around certain key texts or mainstream releases as the film examples.
The second subset of ‘last trailer viewed’ I want to consider here takes us back to the film trailer, but away from contemporaneous releases to the survey. By ‘historical trailer’, then, we are referring to older trailers that may have required more purposeful searching, beyond the (more minimal) effort of following a media or social media link to a ‘new’ trailer. While this level of activity is harder to quantify, the first trailers that fit this category appear to be The World’s End and Star Trek Into Darkness (2 responses, 49th equal). The former can be explained by a staggered international release campaign, while the latter may have featured due to its DVD release in autumn 2013.
Further down the chart, among the 89 film titles that only had one response, were older titles such as The Life of Emile Zola (1937), Beloved (1998), Wise Blood (1979), Robin Hood (2010), The Thing (1981), Chalet Girl (2011), Atonement (2007), Kill Bill 2 (2004), Russian Ark (2002), Rushmore (1998), Punch Drunk Love (2002), and The Room (2003).
Complicating the idea that people think trailers mislead, however, is the sense that people get pleasure from re-watching trailers. The Robin Hood trailer, for example, was viewed because that respondent ‘wanted to get in the mood’ before viewing the film, while the Wise Blood trailer was used to prompt the respondent’s memory of why the film had been added to their Lovefilm list. In both cases, the trailer was clearly used for narrative / emotional preparation, or as an aide-memoire.
Academic preparation was an oft cited reason, perhaps demonstrating the wider pedagogic value of the trailer: Life of Emile Zola and Chalet Girl viewings were for ‘research’, Atonement for a journal article on Vanessa Redgrave; Beloved trailer for a class on African-American film adaptation; The Thing as research for a student essay; and The Room after reading an article about ‘mediocre’ films.
So, while our ‘last trailer viewed’ question confirmed the expectation that popular mainstream trailers are, indeed, popular and regularly viewed, it also underlined the many and varied functions that trailers can serve, particularly around memory.
These are topics we plan to investigate further in our next survey.