Why Is It Called a "Movie Trailer"?

Why Is It Called a "Movie Trailer"?

Aug 27, 2012

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Movie sites and film fans spend an inordinate amount of time watching trailers, but do you know the history of the term or how the coming attractions used to be presented? Thanks to website OMG Facts, we can now wow our friends and colleagues with the origins of the term and its history.

“Trailers” is a pretty odd term for something that comes before the main feature – but they originally got the name because they played after the film. While modern trailers play before a film (when we’re a largely captive audience), early clips didn’t appear until after a feature ended. That seems like bad marketing, as most people today would bail before the trailers even started.

Hollywood has worked to try and change the terminology over the years – calling them “previews” and “coming attractions,” but the term trailers has endured.

The first trailer was shown in 1913, when Nils Granlund (an advertising manager for Marcus Loew’s theaters) put together a short promotional film to highlight the arrival of the musical The Pleasure Seekers, according to Wikipedia. The practice caught on and eventually spread. Up until the end of the 1950s, most trailers were created not by the studios, but by a company named National Screen Services. By the 1960s, that all changed and trailers from that era started to look more like our modern-day previews.

One has to wonder what Granlund would think of trailers today – particularly teaser trailers for full-length trailers and the amount of time audiences spend watching previews before a movie actually starts. Having been an advertising manager, we suspect he might be more pleased with what’s come from his experiment than most film fans are. 

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