Did Digital Kill the Movie Marketing Star?

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I trotted off to the multiplex with my family over the weekend to catch one of the animated holiday films currently dominating the box office. As we settled in, I couldn’t help feeling like the ceremony of watching movie trailers had totally lost its luster. No, it wasn’t just because the movies looked bad (which they did), but because I had seen all of the trailers before. Trailers, to many film lovers like myself, have always been a crucial part of the moviegoing experience. Yet thanks to digital branding and viral campaigns, there is nary a trailer in the theaters that you can’t watch online first. I will mercifully forgo the “when I was a kid, you used to have to wait until you went to the movie theaters to see a trailer” hurrang; online trailers have dominated for years and studios design entire campaigns around their release.

Look at the current crop of summer films. Most of them have had digital campaigns for at least six months. Whether it’s The Hangover 2, The Smurfs or Transformers, studios are pushing these films early thus inspiring the age-old complaint that you feel like you have seen the film in its entirety before it reaches the theaters. Warner Bros’ film version of The Green Lantern has been feeling the digital pinch; almost daily, there are new trailers, sneak previews of posters and new photos of the movie. Yahoo has partnered with the film to offer even more exclusive peeks into the film. The Green Lantern also has big-time dominance on Facebook with 90,000-plus likes. By the time Green Lantern opens on June 17, audiences will either eat it up or pass on it because they’ve already OD’d on the lime-colored hero.

You can’t blame Hollywood for cranking up summer movie marketing, though. The box office has been in the dumps for months. The video-on-demand category looks to sink movie theaters as we know them. So times are tough. Still, you can’t help but wonder if digital desperation is the best way to sell movie magic.

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