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New History of Movie Trailers

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A new comprehensive two-part documentary on the history of movie trailers, funded by the Andrew J. Kuehn Foundation, is being distributed to 800 film schools, university libraries and archival institutions worldwide.Coming Attractions: The History of the Movie Trailer premiered in early March at a special screening at the Linwood Dunn Theater of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences.The documentary covers a century of trailers. It features rarities from the early days of motion pictures, such as glass slide teases used by the Edison Biograph Company, and follows through to present practices such as “Frankensteining,” the stitching together of several test trailers to produce the ubiquitous three-minute marketing vehicles that are meant to create the buzz for upcoming film features.Andrew Kuehn—known as the “king of trailers” for his innovative conceptual work over four decades, initiated the project but passed away in 2004 at 66. The foundation named after him was established just before he died, in part to complete the documentary.“Andy Kuehn’s main motivation was to make this history available to young film students and demonstrate that trailers can be a fascinating way to break into the movie business,” said Michael Shapiro, director and editorial supervisor of the film. Formerly in charge of trailers for MGM and Columbia Pictures, Shapiro was a long-time business partner, colleague and friend of Kuehn and is head of Skyfire Productions.Dirk Mennen was the editor of Coming Attractions.The project took two years to complete. “The hunt for examples was exhaustive and we searched not just for the best trailers, but those in the best shape,” said Shapiro. “The main problem is movie trailers haven’t enjoyed the restoration efforts that movies have.”

Written by Jack Egan

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