Hobbit trailer may leave fans wanting less according to UEA research


Film fans are fed up with trailers that give away too much of a movie’s plot-line according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).



A new study published today shows that audiences want trailers that excite, tease and leave them emotionally engaged, without revealing excessive narrative.

The research is largely based on responses to a 2013 trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It comes as a new trailer for the latest instalment in the series Battle of the Five Armies is premiered online today.

Lead researcher Dr Keith M. Johnston from UEA’s school of Art, Media and American Studies, said: “The release of a blockbuster trailer like The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies is now a media event, featured on news channels, distributed and discussed via movie and fan websites, and widely shared across social media.

“Yet despite the enduring appeal and apparent popularity of these coming attractions, modern trailer releases arrive with a perceived popular stigma – the presumption that they actively mislead or deceive audiences.

“Our research confirms this complaint. But we also found that audiences are aware of those issues when they watch a trailer, and find trailers enjoyable despite the expectations that a marketing campaign might set up.

“The key message to trailer producers, however, is that audiences want to be excited and teased about forthcoming films, to be emotionally engaged without feeling pummelled by excessive narrative revelation.”

The findings are part of an ongoing research project about audience attitudes and reactions to film trailers. The trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) was the most frequently described and discussed preview in an initial survey of more than 500 film-goers. And many of the comments about that trailer’s content and approach were broadly representative of the study’s findings.

Key findings:

– More than 80 per cent of respondents were ‘disappointed’ with a given feature film after having seen its trailer.
– Viewers are regularly frustrated with trailers as a result of perceived ‘spoiler’ information and ‘deception’.
– Audiences are strongly irritated by the revelation of crucial plot details including surprises, narrative reveals and plot outcomes – despite decades of industry research that indicates audiences are more likely to see a film the more they know about it in advance.
– Trailers create individual expectations that feature films are unable to deliver and are often considered better than the full film.

Dr Keith M. Johnston from UEA’s Film, Television & Media Studies department worked with post-graduate student Ed Vollans, and trailer expert Dr Fred Greene, from the University of California.

Dr Greene said: “This is the first significant research into audience attitudes toward trailers in general and their understanding of trailer structure, content and marketing obligations. In analysing the data, we’ve been struck by what audiences know and what they don’t, what audiences think is the context and what advertisers understand it to be. We think this information will be interesting and useful to trailer makers, movie marketers and film distributors as well as to the audiences who consume, love, are frustrated by and make purchasing decisions based on trailers.”

For more information on the ‘Watching the Trailer’ project visit www.watchingthetrailer.com.

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