Pet Peeve #70: Deceptive Trailers for Musicals

I’ve now seen the trailer for Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again approximately 10 times.

Not by choice, mind you. It’s just that it has played in front of every movie I’ve watched in the theater over the last 3 months.

The movie is clearly a musical, but the trailer seems intent on not reminding audiences that it’s a musical. Every moment in the trailer is hand-picked to either (a) show people talking or (b) show people doing other things while someone talks in the voiceover.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t a single musical number in the trailer where someone is singing and dancing on the screen, even though I’d bet anything that’s going to be 90% of the movie. Why do these trailers hide the core elements of these movies? Why not just sell the actual musical to people who love musicals?

This pet peeve dates back to the movie Chicago. At some point I sat down to watch because it has Catherine Zeta-Jones, I have a personal connection to the stage musical, and it received a number of accolades. Also, importantly, even though I knew it was a musical, the trailers I’d seen for it on TV made it seem like there was a fair bit of talking and regular acting in it too.

So when I started watching the movie, I soon realized the entire movie is song and dance. Which is perfectly fine, but it just wasn’t how the TV trailers had set my expectations.

Why do you think some musical trailers do this? Are they trying to trick people into giving musicals a chance? I’m sure there’s a sizable audience for musicals–why not just cater specifically to them?

2 Responses to “Pet Peeve #70: Deceptive Trailers for Musicals”

  1. Re: tricking people who prefer non-musicals into giving musicals a chance? I think probably so. But if someone who prefers non-musicals attends with false expectations based on the trailer, the anger engendered just adds a barrier to their coming to like musicals.

    For me, this gets back to the larger question of how do you expand an audience for a product. Research on change shows that people are receptive to what is a bit different, but not too different, from what they already like. In the example you cite, transparency would dictate that the trailer reflect the 90 to 10% music to non-music distribution—(I suppose they could squeak by with 80 to 20%). And if they are serious about targeting people who prefer non-musicals, the trailer needs to show how the music enhances the drama (or comedy, etc,), which that targeted audience already prefers. Quite a challenge requiring ingenuity, but not insurmountable.

    [PS. Jamey: this site used to automatically enter my saved ID info as soon as I started to comment, but no longer does.]

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      “Research on change shows that people are receptive to what is a bit different, but not too different, from what they already like.”

      That’s really interesting, Dorothy. I think that might be why I enjoyed The Force Awakens (Star Wars episode 7) so much! 🙂

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