Watching the trailer: Researching the film trailer audience

Keith M. Johnston (Lead Author), Ed Vollans, Fred L. Greene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Downloads (Pure)


For over 100 years, the ‘coming attraction’ film trailer has been a key part of film promotion and viewing practices (both theatrical and domestic). Despite the prominent role of the trailer within the fabric of popular media, it has rarely been discussed in terms of audience behaviour, beyond limited claims that the viewer is either misled by inaccurate advertising or has become the source of increased prosumer activity. This article therefore offers the first rigorous exploration of the disparate range of audience perspectives on, and responses to, the trailer. We show that trailer viewing can be understood as a consumption practice that is separate from (and sometimes unrelated to) feature film viewing. Analysing data collected from an online survey, we reveal that while the trailer does have informational and prefigurative value to audiences, trailer viewing is also led by criteria that include emotional attachment, cultural value and social expectation. Our analysis disputes the notion of a linear, mono-directional model of trailer-to-film viewing practices, suggesting a more nuanced understanding of the trailer audience is needed within studies of prefiguration materials and media consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-85
Number of pages30
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • film trailer
  • coming attractions
  • promotion
  • advertising
  • prefiguration
  • reception
  • cultural capital
  • audience discourse

Cite this