Most people will say they are fans of movies. I’m a fan of going to the movies. To my mind, there is no movie that is not improved in some way through the experience of watching it in a theater. There may be many reasons for this, but there are two that I chiefly associate with the experience.
The first, naturally, is simply watching something bigger than life. Yes, size does matter. And a story projected bigger than life already has one hell of an advantage in making you suspend your disbelief. I have watched some arguably horrible movies in the theater and enjoyed them, not realizing how bad they were until after I left. Why? Because in the moment, the mere spectacle running before my eyes is holding my attention with both hands and squeezing—really, really hard. I’m pretty sure if I tried to look away, the movie would in fact slap me. There are some exceptions to this. The movie AI, a film that I adored for almost its entire length—and it had some length, of that there is no doubt—seemed to come to a perfect tragic ending that felt so completely to me like the story’s natural end that when it continued, I was dumbstruck. If you’ve seen the film, you will remember the scene when Haley Joel Osment has sunk below the water and is wishing on the statue of the fairy…and then aliens. It was so jarring, that I spent the last twenty minutes actively thinking about the narrative playing out before me. And that’s not good for any story.
Before I get on a critical rant—the second reason theaters elevate movies seems to me to be the communal experience. It’s not the same as a play where each performance is unique and the particular energy of one show can’t be replicated. But there is something about sharing an experience with a few friends—and a whole bunch of strangers—of getting the joke at the same time everyone else does; of trying to hold back an emotional outpouring while the person next to you is being less successful; of simultaneously groaning at some really lame attempt at humor; of knowing you are not the only one thinking to yourself, My, Bruce Willis sure does look old to be getting beat up like that.
So why am I talking about the movie theater experience? Because one thing I have always loved about the theater experience that I can’t find any equivalent to in books is watching trailers. Before YouTube made it possible to see every trailer as soon as they were released, nothing matched the excitement of seeing those quickly intercut scenes for the first time; I know no one who saw the first Independence Day trailers—months and months before the movie premiered—that wasn’t blown away by such wholesale landmark destruction—itself a new kind of spectacle.
Because for some reason my brain does all its thinking in cinema—I don’t know what that means, but it sounds good—I keep coming back to advertising a book in the same way as a movie. Can you put together a compelling “trailer” of short excerpts or will we forever be using the convention of previewing the first few chapters of a new book…