Coming Soon to a Theater Near You: A Theology of Movie Trailers

Posted: November 28, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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photo 3If you’ve been following Reel Thinking for any length of time, you know that one of the things we do regularly—aside from offering weekly reflections on specific films—is highlight trailers for forthcoming releases. We’ve been doing so increasingly as the Oscar race gets heated up and as studios begin their summer blockbuster campaigns. And since Trailer Tuesdays are a staple here at Reel Thinking (and since we’re getting our first look at a certain highly-anticipated film today), I think it would be helpful to offer a few thoughts on the significance of movie trailers.

Obviously, there are many different ways to approach this subject. It is entirely valid to talk about the movie trailer as a marketing tool designed to sell tickets, analyzing the factors that determine what is shown, how it’s shown, and when it’s shown. On the other hand, one can look at trailers from a production standpoint—or as a sociologist, statistician, or rhetorician. But I want to do something entirely different; I want to briefly consider trailers from a theological perspective.

A primary function of the movie trailer is to build audience anticipation. As we settle into our theater seats (or huddle around a computer) and watch the latest preview, we experience a unique internal tension between excitement and suspense. The excitement comes as we get our first look at a movie we really want to see. At the same time, a trailer’s final reminder that the highly-anticipated film will not release for a considerable length of time often leaves the viewer is a state of suspense. An appetite is whet, but the main course is yet to come.

This is a tension in which we revel and delight, for movie trailer premieres have increasing become pop culture events akin to the opening night of the feature film itself. I think, for instance, about the time I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in IMAX. Paramount had promised to release an extended, 9 minute trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness that would be shown exclusively in theaters before this screening, and it seemed like some people bought a ticket just so they could see that trailer. They were on the edge of their seat for the entire nine minutes and there were some scattered cheers at the end. “I can’t wait to see that,” was whispered in many ears. This probably sounds familiar, considering a number of people bought tickets to a movie this week just because Disney announced that the Star Wars: Episode VII–The Force Awakens trailer would premiere at a select number of theaters across the nation.

MV5BMjM4MjI2MDMwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODI2MDgzMzE@._V1__SX1394_SY676_All of this excitement and anticipation around movie trailers reminds me of the theological concept of the “already but not yet,” wherein Christians presently experience many of the blessings of the Kingdom while still awaiting the future, final consummation. We experience a faint shadow of that eschatological tension when we watch movie trailers. The preview makes promises of good things to come and excites a deeper—and for some people, hidden and suppressed—longing for a “Kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).

[While I was working on this post, the trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII–The Force Awakens dropped on the internet. You can watch it here.


  1. […] the trailer, check that out here and read Blaine’s post about a theology of movie trailers here).  To say that the trailer was released with much fanfare would be putting it lightly.  Sites […]

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