When Could We See The First 'Star Wars Episode 7' Trailer?

Disclaimer: This is not a news report, this is a bit of researched fan speculation based on a fun conversation I had at a dinner over the weekend. I'm way too excited for Episode VII, I know...

Okay Star Wars fans, we're just under 550 days until Star Wars: Episode VII hits the big screen — the anticipation is killing me! Over the weekend, a couple friends wondered out loud when we might see the first Star Wars Episode 7 trailer. So lets take a look at the varied possibilities and briefly examine how movie marketing works.

When Could Disney Set The Star Wars Episode 7 Trailer Release Date?

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

The first teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace hit with Meet Joe Black on November 13, 1998, about six months before the May 19, 1999 release of the film. The full trailer was attached to Wing Commander, released on March 12th 1999. The teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones was attached to Monsters, Inc., released November 2nd 2001, again about six months before the May 16th 2002 release date. the Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith trailer was attached to another Pixar film The Incredibles, which was released November 5th 2004, about six months before the movie's premiere.

Summer 2015

So with this information, one could assume that the first Star Wars Episode 7  teaser trailer would likely be released about six months before the film's December 18th 2015 release date. This would put a target date for May/June 2015. Here is a list of big movies being released in those months:

avengers-age-ultron-logo

May 2015

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (BV) – 5/1
  • Far from the Madding Crowd (FoxS) – 5/1
  • Untitled Reese Witherspoon/Sofia Vergara Comedy (WB) – 5/8
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (WB) – 5/15
  • Pitch Perfect 2 (Uni.) – 5/15
  • Pixels (Sony) – 5/15
  • Spy (Fox) – 5/22
  • Tomorrowland (BV) – 5/22
  • Monster Trucks (Par.) – 5/29

June 2015

  • B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations (Fox) – 6/5
  • San Andreas (WB) – 6/5
  • Entourage (WB) – 6/12
  • Jurassic World (Uni.) – 6/12
  • The Fantastic Four (Fox) – 6/19
  • Inside Out (BV) – 6/19
  • Ricki and the Flash (TriS) – 6/26
  • Ted 2 (Uni.) – 6/26

Often trailers are released for films on earlier releases from the same studio. Motion Picture Association of America guidelines state that only two and a half minutes of trailer time may be attached to the feature film from a studio. The attached trailer will then play more frequently and in more prominent slots than any trailers "shipped separately to exhibitors."  For example, the teaser trailer for Man of Steel was attached to The Dark Knight Rises, another Warner Bros release.

May 2015 Options

Tomorrowland

My first thought is that the Star Wars Episode 7 trailer release date would probably be in early May 2015, released on Disney's Avengers: Age of Ultron or Tomorrowland in late May. Both films are from Disney.

While big trailers often come attached to other releases from the same studio, that isn't always the case. But, as seen above, teaser trailers for the Star Wars prequels were not attached to 20th Century Fox films (the distributor of the first six Star Wars movies). The teasers were instead attached to a Universal movie and two Pixar films.

With movie marketing, it's much more important to place a trailer on a film that will hit the same target demographic.  Avengers 2 and Tomorrowland definitely fit the target demographic that Disney aims for with most of their releases. But the six month mark is more closer to mid- June than May.

June 2015 Options

inside out logo

The two big options in June are Jurassic World and Pixar's Inside Out.

Jurassic World is a Universal film, not a Disney release, not that that matters. I'm sure Jurassic World will be a PG-13 release, which likely knocks it out of contention. Disney is going to want to go as wide as possible with the first teaser, hitting both children and adults. The Episode II and Episode III teasers were attached to Pixar movies, so why not Inside Out?

If you think attaching a trailer to a movie doesn't result in buzz look at the case of Meet Joe Black. Star Wars fans famously bought tickets to the Brad Pitt movie and walked out before the movie requesting refunds. Many theaters ended up putting up signs saying they would not refund tickets purchased after the trailers had begun.

Conventions

Star Wars Celebration

Another thing to think about is that Star Wars' official fan convention Star Wars Celebration takes place April 16-19th 1015 in Anaheim California. Thats a whole 8 months before the release of Star Wars Episode VII. Is it possible that J.J. Abrams and crew won't debut a teaser trailer at the event? Yes, but unlikely. So its also possible that they might cut a small fan teaser for the event before the real teaser trailer goes live later in the Summer.

Comic Con 2015 will likely take place the second week of July 2015, and while we can expect a presence at that convention, Disney has usually sat out coming to San Diego on years they hold their own D23 convention. Disney's official fan convention D23 Expo takes place August 14-16th 2015, and I'm sure we'll see some kind of debut during that time in Anaheim. But the first teaser trailer will definitely have hit before then.

Cross Media Strategy

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It's also possible that Disney will take a completely different approach, using their many entities to help create a worldwide event. When I was speculating about this on Twitter after my dinner discussion, someone theorized that Disney could do an expansive cross-media event, premiering the trailer for the first time on all of the Disney-owned television stations, online, in theme parks simultaneously. Its very possible Disney will up the "epic" factor in this film's marketing campaign — positioning Episode VII as the biggest event film of our time.

Remember, 20th Century Fox made a television event out of the Episode II full trailer, airing the trailer on the Fox Network on March 10th 2002 between Malcolm in the Middle and The X-Files (the trailer was also available on the official Star Wars web site the same day).

Longer Lead Marketing

Tron Legacy Concept Art

But also, times have changed, and so has the release date of Episode VII. Never before have we had a Star Wars film released in the Christmas movie-going season. The teaser trailers for the May-set Star Wars prequels were always released in early to mid November the year before. Also all these decisions were made by 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm, the Mouse might see things completely differently.

Some films still focus on theatrical marketing exclusively first. Christopher Nolan and David Fincher are some filmmakers who have consistently pushed to have their trailers shown only on the big screen for the first few days. (Or a few weeks in the case of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which was attached to Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and wasn't available officially online until three weeks later.) JJ Abrams and Bad Robot have done a couple opening sequence previews which were exclusively shown in IMAX.

However its unlikely in this internet age that a theatrical-exclusive trailer would last a few minutes before appearing online in bootleg form.

We live in different times. Studios value the spikes in social graphs more and more. There is the possibility that they will just launch the trailer online the week or days leading up to one of the above mentioned movies. More people will see a trailer this way than launching in exclusively in theaters and releasing the trailer online the next week.

Big Hero 6 (1)

And it's also possible we could see things sooner. The soonest we could realistically see a teaser trailer would be attached to the Disney animated film Big Hero 6 in November 2014. Other winter 2014 possibilities include Into the Woods and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, although I'd again argue that Disney wants a PG movie to debut the first trailer and The Hobbit is likely going to be PG-13.

There have been some studies that have shown that its not cost effective to market a film these days more than six months in advance as a result of the short attention span internet generation. Long lead campaigns certainly didn't help Tron Legacy at the box office, although everyone always points to The Dark Knight as the major success in this realm. Godzilla is a more recent example of a film which promoted for more than a year before release.

So there are a bunch of possibilities, nothing definite. Here is what I have concluded:

  • Disney will probably follow previous history and release the first teaser trailer for Episode VII 6-8 months before the film's December 2015 release.
  • The teaser trailer will most likely premiere at the Star Wars' official fan convention Star Wars Celebration which takes place April 16-19th 1015 in Anaheim California.
  • The trailer will then likely be available to the general public weeks later attached to either Avengers: Age of Ultron in early May or Tomorrowland in late May, premiering online days before.
  • If I am wrong about the above, than Pixar's Inside Out in June is the next best choice on the film schedule

Again, this is all just speculation based on past history.

One thing that quickly occurred to me during this speculative discussion: we likely haven't even seen the teaser trailer for the movie that will likely have the first Star Wars Episode 7 trailer. We're still in early days.

Feedback: When do you think Disney will release the first Star Wars 7 trailer and why?