All hail trailer season

There's no better time of year for movie fans

Movie trailers.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Screenshot/YouTube)

It starts slowly at first — the hum begins in June and doesn't truly build to a buzz until July — but by now, there is no question. Trailer season is in full swing.

You've likely noticed the uptick in movie and TV trailers in recent weeks, an annual phenomenon that this year was cratered by the first footage from Tom Hooper's Cats, but has also included new teasers for Westworld season three, It: Chapter Two, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, among dozens of others. With studios gearing up campaigns for the major fall and holiday season, this is the natural time to begin to build buzz.

Speaking as a fan, that means there is no better time of year than this.

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Although some overeager distributors will drop fall trailers in May and June (Frozen 2 and Doctor Sleep come to mind), the majority wait to stoke excitement until July and early August. By late July, sometimes there will be two or three new trailers dropping a day; just yesterday, for example, we got first looks at both Taika Waititi's "friendly imaginary Hitler" movie Jojo Rabbit and Kasi Lemmons' Harriet Tubman biopic Harriet. TV networks likewise aim to drop trailers in late summer to promote their autumn programming. It's also not uncommon for new trailers to be released in the summer following initial spring trailers, as a means of renewing excitement.

Late summer is additionally the beginning of the end-of-year film festival circuit. With Toronto, Venice, Locarno, Telluride, and New York all beginning or announcing festival lineups in the coming weeks, some studios strategically time trailers with the corresponding chatter. In recent years, San Diego Comic-Con has also spurred the release of highly-anticipated genre trailers at the convention itself. In 2019, Comic-Con saw the debut of the Star Trek TV series Picard, the trailer for the return of The Expanse, as well as trailers for Top Gun: Maverick and HBO's Watchmen, along with many, many others.

Trailers still get a bad rap, though. I know plenty of people who prefer not to watch them at all, wanting instead to go into their most-anticipated movies cold. I'm the opposite sort of person: I love the buzz around movies almost as much as I love finally seeing the films in question.

That's partially because trailers are their own sort of art. Precisely evoking emotion and tone in a two-minute spot — and without giving too much away! — is a delicate balancing act, one that's nailed this season in the moving trailers for biopics A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and Judy.

Trailers serve as the first opportunity for fans and critics alike to get a read on a project that previously existed only as a concept. While I am perfectly capable of getting excited about a His Dark Materials HBO show just from the network's announcement, I don't have any true confidence in such a project until I see how Lyra and her magical companion Pantalaimon are imagined by the creators.

I don't have to be familiar with a story to be invested in how the trailer turns out, either; just being a fan of director James Gray and Ad Astra's cast of Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, and Ruth Negga is enough for me to be invested in how the trailer looks (pretty good, as it turns out!).

Obviously they can't all be winners. Trailer season is also about the collective disappointment that comes with the promotion of something that seems, well, totally out there. Take the acid nightmare that is the first trailer for Cats, which provoked reactions like "my eyes are bleeding."

But even Cats ultimately gets the benefit of "wait and see." It is, after all, only a trailer.

The best trailers are the ones that serve as introductions. Trailers are of course intended to be first impressions, designed to elicit a thumbs-up or thumbs-down reaction between friends in a dark theater before the feature presentation. But it's when you stumble on a trailer for a movie you hadn't previously heard of, and that you subsequently can't stop thinking about, that you've reaped the greatest reward trailer season has to offer.

Trailer season isn't over yet, either. In the coming weeks, I expect we could see spots for Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story, the Zombieland sequel, and Greta Gerwig's Little Women. While it isn't out until April 2020, a teaser for the 25th James Bond film could potentially be around the corner, too.

Savor them all. Trailers exist in a space where you can't be let down by the end product just yet, where everything is potential energy. And for these few weeks a year, between the time all the summer movies have come out and before the autumn awards bait begins, even the future duds still seem promising.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.