2014: The “Force” of the Trailer

This year's fascination with coming attractions offers a preview of movie mania coming soon – or not soon enough – to a theater near you.

The preview for "Stars Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens" stands as the "Citizen Kane" of movie trailers, though not for any groundbreaking cinematic stylings (even if the new lightsabers are kind of cool) or hints of revelatory "Rosebud" moments (the series dispensed with that with Darth Vader's "I am your father" declaration in “The Empire Strikes Back”).

No, the trailer for J.J. Abrams first swaddling of George Lucas' aging baby draws comparison to Orson Welles' masterpiece only in reaction: It might be the most dissected 88 seconds in cinematic history.

That's a sign of the series' hold on fans 37 years after Luke Skywalker left Tatooine. But tens of millions of YouTube views racked up the trailer and its high-jacking of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend movie hype also speak to one of the biggest movie stories of 2014: The force of the trailer.

The year's fascination with coming attractions offers a preview of movie mania coming soon – or not soon enough – to a theater near you.

The Force isn’t alone. The “Jurassic World” trailer stomped into town this fall, making Steven Spielberg's 1993 groundbreaking (and ground-shaking) original look downright primitive.

“Jurassic World” is scheduled to be released in theaters on June 12, 2015.

The “Avengers: Age of Ultron” preview rolled out on TV and online with great fanfare. Even the trailer for the upcoming new "Peanuts" movie, with Snoopy, Woodstock and everybody's favorite round-headed depressive rendered in 3-D, cast a spell some 45 years after the hand-drawn “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” debuted in theaters.

The trailer phenomenon is brought to you not by Hollywood as much as by YouTube. But there's also something charmingly old school about the coming attractions boom as the “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park” and “Peanuts” franchises tap into a nostalgic vein. Even if it’s only been two years since the first “Avengers” flick, the series features characters familiar to generations of Marvel comic book fans.

There's a danger, of course, in building unrealistic expectations for the movies, as Lucas learned with prequel Episodes I through III. “Episode VII,” for all the hoopla, won’t land in theaters until nearly next Christmas.

This year’s spate of high-profile previews offers the promise of old memories validated and new ones to be created. It's getting to the point, though, where moviegoers might remember first seeing the trailer for a treasured film as much as the film itself, becoming our own, neatly wrapped Rosebuds.

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So check out some trailers – for the umpteenth time – as you make 2015 movie-going plans.

Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multimedia NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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