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Why They're Called Trailers & Fun B.O. Facts
by Christopher Stone

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Why are Movie Previews called Trailers?

Why are Movie Previews called Trailers?
As the all-important holiday box office roars toward its January 1 climax, and a new box office year looms, the time is right for levity. In that mode, as well as in the holiday spirit, here's how trailers got their name and a few fun box office facts.

Last month, I saw CASINO ROYALE at a Civilian Theatre, the Mary Pickford Theatres in Palm Springs, to be exact. For me, a Civilian Theatre is where I see movies with the general public. I've written about movies for years, and so I frequently
see Flicks at private screenings, or by playing a studio provided screener DVD at home. In truth, I love going to Civilian Theatres because audience reactions enhance my enjoyment of a movie.

In any event, I'm in this lovely Civilian Theatre in the desert, waiting in the Mary Pickford-Buddy Rogers festooned lobby for the current showing of CASINO ROYALE to conclude. Nearby, a school-age foursome also waits for the auditorium to empty. One of them asks the others, "Why do they call Movie Previews, trailers?" They didn't no. I didn't know. It didn't bother me that they didn't know. I was highly irritated that the answer escaped me. "I should know!" I told myself.

The following day, back home in coastal Los Angeles County, I asked this question of my
DREAMGIRLS: a $25. roadshow ticket

DREAMGIRLS: a $25. roadshow ticket
dear friend Dee Lewis. She's the daughter of a motion picture exhibitor.

Within minutes, I had the answer.

Here's the story: Back in the days of motion picture double features, the previews of coming attractions were attached by the theater projectionist to the end of the film reel of the B, or second, feature, so that previews were shown between it and the main feature, thus trailing the supporting feature.

In these days of single-feature movie theater programs and digital projection, the name is outdated, inaccurate. But at least we now know why previews are called trailers. I only hope the puzzled foursome from the Pickford Theatres read this pillar. If so, then they know, too.

You may already be aware that THE LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING is the all-time worldwide box office champ with $1.8 billion in ticket sales. But did you know that MEET THE FOCKERS, with $516 million worldwide, is the top-grossing live-action motion picture comedy of all time? Then there's GREASE. With nearly $400 million in worldwide ticket sales. This tuneful John Travolta classic is the box office's most successful adaptation of a Broadway musical.

Now for a dubious achievement: What is the most expensive movie ticket in America? According to
Would SPIDY 2 Have Belly-flopped with Jake?

Would SPIDY 2 Have Belly-flopped with Jake?
my research, the priciest ticket for a first-run movie seat at a non-benefit performance is the $25.00 that Hollywood's Cinerama Dome Theatre will be charging when DREAMGIRLS opens its limited release run on Friday, December 15. If you know of a more expensive box office ducat for a first-run movie, then please let me know.

From the ridiculous to the sublime: the least expensive first-run movie ticket in America is the 99-Cents admission at the Dolby Digital-equipped, community-owned, Center Theatre in small town Grundy, Iowa. The two-screen theater has recently shown THE SANTA CLAUS 3 and HAPPY FEET. But more than one's feet are happy when a Match Flick for two costs only $1.98 at this box office.

Here's a box office fact that may make the likes of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts squirm in their designer shoes. Star power is fading: the big box office names may be more trouble and money than they are worth.

Many of the highest-grossing movies of our young century were not star-driven vehicles: think the LORD OF THE RINGS movies, the HARRY POTTER series, and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. Does anyone believe that SPIDER MAN 2 would have flopped if Jake Gyllenhaal, as once rumored, had replaced Tobey McGuire in the title role? I doubt it. How about you?

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The Business of Show
Every other Friday

Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.

Other Columns
Other columns by Christopher Stone:

The Cautionary Box-Office

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up. Part Two

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up, Part 1

Quality Is Independent

Oh, the Horror!

All Columns

Christopher Stone
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christopher Stone by clicking here.

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