Forecasting the future feature: How film industry hierarchies shaped trailer discourse, 1919-1959

Keith M. Johnston, Jesse Balzar

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The coming attraction film trailer has successfully maintained its prominent role within film promotion for over a hundred years. This article explores the shifting historical status of the trailer within the film industry and how industry trade press reported on its development and widespread adoption. Across this period these publications worked to delineate the discursive borders within which trailer debate occurred: from attacks on the trailer’s usefulness to related claims of accuracy and fidelity. Exploring the creation of this discourse challenges the idea that the increasingly negative tone around the film trailer in the 21st century is a uniquely modern phenomenon. The article argues that these initial industry strategies need to be understood in relation to key cultural and industrial concerns around commerce and artistry, critical cultural gatekeeping, and broader interests in forecasting. By focusing on a largely overlooked element of the classical Hollywood system, we demonstrate how trailers existed in a disputed space within that system: a crucial promotional tool but also a creatively potent film text.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Early online date10 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jan 2024

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