The virus isn’t letting go. What does that mean for movies and their trailers?
Funny how things work out sometimes.
I began work on Movie Trailer Mastery well over a year ago in March of 2019. First, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to say in the book and then writing a first draft. A series of rewrites and tweaks followed. Then I’d put it away for a while and come back with even further refinements or clarifications based on the premise that good writing is clear thinking made visible.
If I had a busy week of voiceover work it was hard to spend any quality time on the book. I find that I need to be in the right frame of mind to write clearly and creatively, and it can be tough to switch gears from “audition and session mode” into “writing mode.” The process of completing the print and e-book versions of the book alone took many months of discernment to identify what to include and how best to present the material.
Once the text of the book was finalized I began recording the audiobook version. I’d never recorded an audiobook before, and this process was a challenging one for me. To all my audiobook narrator friends who perform this kind of work regularly, you have my utmost respect. How do you do it? Recording the entire book too much longer than I hoped, and I like to think that next time (I’m thinking about a possible second edition of the book here) I’ll be able to get through it more quickly.
Then came the book’s layout, artwork, and other details. Finally – it was ready to launch!
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit it essentially shut down film production. We pushed the book’s launch because we were all understandably focused on other things as the economy started shutting down and people were asked to stay at home. Timing, timing, timing.
But finally, the book has been born, and you’ll read a lot about the importance of timing as you read it.
Yes, trailer work has slowed down substantially during this time as film production has come to a halt.
Theaters are re-opening very slowly and in fact most new releases will come directly to consumers via streaming services. “Trolls World Tour,” starring the voices of Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick, received the biggest digital debut of all time. It was released online on the same date it had been scheduled to show up on theater screens. Interestingly, it also played at some drive-in theaters where social distancing is a little more easy to accomplish with people watching the film from their own cars.
I think whatever “normal” becomes after the pandemic subsides it’s going to look and feel different than the “normal” that came before. At this point we don’t even know exactly when stay-at-home orders will be lifted and large gatherings will be allowed again. While we’re all preparing for whatever’s next, here are a few of my thoughts on how the trailer business will be impacted:
First, if film viewing habits change enough and debuting new films online successfully becomes the norm, will movie theater chains like AMC, CineMark, and ArcLight ever reopen? If they do, it’s fair to assume there will be a long period of time where they have to implement social distancing requirements and limit seating capacity. One third of a theater’s seating capacity, for example, might be considered a “full house”. Will chains simply go out of business? We’ll see.
Secondly, drive-in theaters are becoming a thing again, and I bet that continues. Some still exist today but many closed down decades ago. Going to the drive-in was an event when I was growing up, especially in the warmer months. Back in 1977, I saw the debut of “Star Wars” at a drive-in on Martha’s Vineyard with my friend Steven. The screen was much larger than you’d find in any multiplex today. It was epic. With social distancing being much easier to execute, watch for drive-in theaters to make a comeback, particularly in parts of the country that have a more moderate climate. Maybe this will become our new communal way of watching a movie – outdoors under the open sky.
Third, what will the tone and style of post-pandemic movie trailers look and feel like? That will depend on the tone and style of the films produced once business gets back up and running again. Will there be more “we’re all in this together” and “inspirational, feel good” films? Or will there be a complete shift to pure escapist films that don’t try to reach too far for a meaningful message, instead leaning into pure entertainment value?
Lastly, even if every indoor theater complex disappears (which I can’t imagine will happen in the long run) and just about every film made is released in an online environment, the need to market the films will still be there. Trailers, TV spots and other related marketing tools will be produced. In a post-pandemic world with so much isolation, social distancing, and a lack of in-person human contact, I can easily make a case for the return of more voices in trailers to help satisfy the need to re-connect again as human beings. Like hearing a good bedtime story when you were a kid, the art of telling and hearing authentic stories in films and how they’re marketed will be more important than ever.
Photo Credit: AP/Charlie Neibergall