The lights dim, the theater quiets, and you're set with a fresh bag of popcorn on your lap.
Perhaps you're ready to brace yourself for the new slasher flick, bawl your eyes out over "P.S. I Love You" or "The Last Song," encapsulate your mind in a brainteaser like "Inception," or just sit down for a two- to three-hour laugh sesh that could pass for an abdominal workout.
Whatever the film, the few minutes before the show are filled with anticipation. That eagerness fades, though, when you're reminded that before you fall into the movie magic that you shelled out $8.50 for, you have to sit through 15 minutes of previews of upcoming attractions.
Movie trailers are an annoyance to most; to me, however, the previews are among the best parts of the whole cinematic experience. It's like the first bite of a food that you've never tried before, the first toe dipped in the water, or the first date: more often than not, it'll let you know if you're hooked or not.
The movie trailer is an art in itself: too long, and you've lost the attention of the audience -- too short and it leaves people confused and uninterested. Then there's the giveaway factor. In a comedy's case, too often the trailer is a laugh powerhouse packaged in two minutes, leaving no joke for the feature to claim its own in a few months.
Perhaps the key to making a successful trailer isn't creative genius, but a formula -- maybe the process of crafting the perfect trailer is a science, not an art.
Here's my concoction for the best movie trailer ever.
1. Epic Music: It's absolutely essential there is a good song to set the mood for the film. Usually, the music isn't even in the film and serves as a false lure to buy the soundtrack.
2. The Big Booming Voice: Chances are you've heard the voice guru of the movie trailer world Don LaFontaine announcing: "In a world ... (long pause) ..." -- you get the point. This type of voice-directed trailer occurs less often but something about it is so refreshingly cheesy.
3. The Letters: Sometimes, in lieu of the voice mentioned above, film advertisers opt for visual narration. Usually it is bold and simple, but occasionally they can go all out with anything from blood-splattered words to elegant cursive depending on the genre of the film. Bonus points are in effect if the text flies in and sparkles (for instance, the big and shiny, lightning-shaped "P" of the "Harry Potter" trailers).
4. The Cliffhanger: Without one, who will bother going to the movie? The perfect trailer has to leave the audience wondering which of their love interests the protagonist will choose, whether or not aliens will destroy the earth, or if the protagonist will find the treasure they've spent their lives looking by the end of the flick. In most cases, we all know exactly what is going to happen, but the potential for something more keeps the question burning.
5. The Best Part: This seems obvious, but a good trailer shows the funniest joke, the biggest explosion, the most passionate kiss, or the most dramatic duel of the whole film. One may be disappointed by the lack of fresh material after seeing the movie, but the producers achieved exactly what they wanted. They got you in the theater again. And with that, you saw a whole new bunch of trailers that will cause the cycle to continue.