Can You Take It All Away? Well You Shoved It In My Face – A Movie Trailer Experiment

Last fall, I was geeked out x infinity for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1, and watched every single trailer/teaser/interview/special/ABCFamily-weekend-with-extra-footage that I could.  I’m gonna go ahead and assume that many, MANY fans did the same.  I wanted to see as much as they would show me (always assuming, naively, that they were saving so much more for the big screen).  Most reasonably intelligent adults are aware that movie trailers tend to show a LOT of the film they are advertising, but have you ever stopped to really wonder just how much??  After we saw DH1, even though I really loved the hell out of it, I truly felt like I had seen most of it already.  Which is just frigging sad, when you’re so looking forward to an event for like, years.  And so was born the idea for my Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 Trailer Test.  I chose 3 separate trailers for the films, and compared the content of those, with the actual film.  Now, I need to preface that this was EXTREMELY difficult to quantify, I wasn’t sure how to even measure this, given that one trailer can show many shots, some for a split second, some for many more.  So, I did the best I could, in a way that I thought made the most sense.  I’ll say this:  It was labor intensive (took about 6 hours and gave me a !@$#*ing headache) and the results, as I expected, were surprising and gross.  Without further adieu:

First off, the trailers I used:

  • Trailer 1:  This was the first trailer I ever saw for the film, during the MTV Movie Awards, and it actually contains images for both parts.  In 2:30 running time, it contains 24 total flashes or scenes from the first film, 2 of which weren’t in the film at all.
  • Trailer 2:  A full complete theatrical trailer for part 1 only.  In 2:25 running time, it contains EIGHTY TWO (!!!!) shots, 8 of which were not in the film.
  • Trailer 3:  A full complete theatrical trailer for part 1 only, from the 2010 Scream Awards.  It’s 1:03 running time and contains 30 shots from the film, 3 of which were not in the movie at all.                                                                                                   *(NOTE)* These 3 trailers did share some scenes, so overall, the three combined totaled 5:58 minutes, containing a total of 108 different scenes, 9 of which were never shown in the film. That breaks down to a new shot from the film almost every 3.3 seconds.

Next, limitations:

  • I didn’t measure how many scenes in the film weren’t shown in the trailers, nor did I measure the length of specific shots; I felt certain both of those goals were highly unattainable.
  • My final results are going to actually look a little better than the reality because there were a few things in the film that I know for a fact I’d seen in other teasers, or perhaps as clips being shown when a cast member was on a talk show, so those were not counted in this experiment – I just stuck with what was shown in my chosen trailers.  I chose the ones I did because they seemed to be the most complete and most common.  It would have been almost impossible for me to get ahold of and analyze EVERY snippet of the film shown to the public before opening day.
  • Since quantifying this seemed so intangible to me, I decided to break the film up into the chapters that the DVD was split into.  The disc is divided into 32, however, two of those are for the closing credits, so this is based on 30 chapters.
  • As hard as I tried to be exact, everything ended up being what I hope is close approximations. I can do math fairly competently, but I’m not into splitting seconds and such.
  • Sometimes, a certain scene would be broken into parts and split across different trailers.  I counted each part as one shot.  If the marketing people are going to, then so am I.

And here is the nasty festering herpes sore of truths that I discovered:

  • Of the 30 total chapters of film, the running time is 2:14:40 (this does not include closing credits), which averages to about 4:30 per chapter.
  • Only two (!!) chapters contained no discernible shots from a trailer, so 28 out of 30 or 93.3% of the chapters contained images from trailers.
  • Some chapters contained only one or two shots, while one had up to 11, for an average of 3.6 shots per chapter (or 4:30 of the film) from a trailer.
  • Chapters 1, 2, and 30 (the opening and closing scenes) are shown almost in their ENTIRETY across several of these trailers.
  • Most shots in a chapter were 11 and said chapter was 3:58.  (In case you wonder what scene this was, it was the 7 Potters flying battle sequence)
  • 50% of the chapters contained 3 or more shots from trailers.
  • Almost 1/3 of the chapters contained over 5 shots from trailers.

In conclusion, it seems that the studio marketing people who make these flipping things took snippets from LITERALLY every single scene, broke them up into tiny pieces and sent them out into the world.  I don’t know about you, but about 5 shots, no matter how quick, in approximately every four and a half minutes of screen time, is way, WAY too damn many.  Unfortunately, my little investigation did not provide any sort of way for me to say, BOOM! 73% OF THIS FILM IS SEEN IN TRAILERS!, but I hope I was able to palpably show that a substantial chunk of it was.  Makes me want to obliviate myself to get rid of the trailers I’ve seen for part 2.

~Annie

The rest of my Harry Potter 5-part series:  Part 5, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2.5, Part 2, Part 1

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4 thoughts on “Can You Take It All Away? Well You Shoved It In My Face – A Movie Trailer Experiment

  1. Pingback: I’ll Keep On Smiling From The Times I Had With Them – Part 5 of 5 | ravingmadscientists

  2. You are AMAZING!!! I am so impressed with the scientific approach you applied to this experiment! I agree with you but would never have attempted to break it down as thoroughly as you did.
    RAVINGMADSCIENTISTS?…. absolutely! You ROCK!!

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