Friday 1 November 2013

Trailers First

When people put the cart before the horse, that's preposterous, or, more precisely pre-post-erous. It's upside down and vice versa and, peculiarly, head over heels (which is a strange re-ordering of the original heels over head).

But why do movie trailers not trail after the film? Why do they trail first?

Well, this article seems to have the answer. They used to come after the film. It's the old trick of the series. At the end of one episode you have a trailer for the next one. Here is the cliffhanger, and here the promise of resolution. Here's a description of how it worked in 1912:

One of the concessions hung up a white sheet and showed the serial "The Adventures of Kathlyn." At the end of the reel Kathlyn was thrown in the lion's den. After this "trailed" a piece of film asking Does she escape the lion's pit? See next week's thrilling chapter! Hence, the word "trailer," an advertisement for a coming picture.

But before and after became blurred. Cinemas would show a film, then the trailers, then another film, then the trailers, then another film. So whether you considered them to be before or after simply depended on when you happened to wander into the cinema.


  1. I'd always assumed it was hunting analogy - trailing the scent before us in the hope that we'll pick it up and follow it.

  2. You are writing my anticipated thoughts before I had them... Reminds me of the expression "preventive maintenance", used in technical documentations.

  3. they used to be called "Coming Attractions," because that's what it said on the screen, and then they were called "Previews." "Trailer" arrived as industry jargon, I think.