Looking back on Apple's defunct movie trailer site and the early days of trailer culture

Screenshot: Apple's trailer site, via Wayback Machine

Apple made a quite switch recently that had me awash in nostalgia: it's migrated its movie trailers site over to the Apple TV app and site (I spotted this via Ars Technica, although it appears that this happened sometime back in August), rather than keeping it as a standalone site. I'm a little sad at the change, even though I haven't visited the site in ages.

The trailer site was one of those sites that was a daily visit for me while I was in high school and in college. Ars points out that it was a good way for Apple to showcase its Quicktime software, but I always found it to be an excellent place to learn about what was coming up in theaters (something a little more up-to-date than the pamphlet listing new/upcoming releases that the local movie theater handed out when you walked in.)

It was a neat site, especially before the existence of YouTube. I'm pretty sure that I can trace my interest in entertainment news almost directly to this page, and I know I found a lot of interesting-looking films by clicking on the tiny image of each film' poster – films like Underworld, Sin City, Garden State, and tons of others. Scrolling through Wayback Machine to look at the site is a real trip – there are lots of films that I've forgotten about that I remember getting excited to watch.

There's something special about a movie trailer: a first glimpse of a story, something that held a certain amount of promise for what you'd sit down to watch in theaters. It's marketing, but there's an art to a well-crafted trailer. The best ones stick in your mind with a blend of music and clips, sometimes to the point where they're better than the actual film themselves. One that's stuck with me that I know I came across from Apple's site is 2003's Underworld, which is so deliciously 2000s filmmaking (and trailer style – I spent so much time trying to track down the music from it– it's Agent Provocateur's "Red Tape"), and I'm pretty sure I got my first glimpse of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings via the site.

Trailer culture online has been at a fever pitch for years now: we've long since gotten to the point where there's nearly as much attention placed on the trailers themselves (indeed, Aquaman 2 got its own 30 second trailer for the trailer), and you'll see frame-by-frame dissections of the biggest releases for clues about what to expect when the film comes out. (A great use of my time, looking back, let me tell you.) There were fantastic Twitter personalities that were great about covering trailers (RIP @TrailerTrack), and all too many people who lost their minds when fandom churned up a date for a highly-anticipated release, only for it not to materialize at the promised time. (Richard Newby's piece at The Hollywood Reporter is essential reading on this tangent.)

What I like about trailers is what I like about the experience of moviegoing in general: the sense of anticipation and promise that a series of trailers and posters dredges up. I'm not a huge fan of the general state of online entertainment reporting that hits every single casting rumor or leaked image, but watching a trailer for an upcoming project remains a delight, and I'm always eager to click on something to see what it'll show me. Maybe it'll be my next obsession, disappointment, or entry on the never-ending to-watch list. Any way you cut it, it's something to look forward to down the line.

I've missed Apple's Trailers site, even though I never really stopped by that often. Youtube and social media has long since overtaken that particular piece of online real estate, but it's like driving through a town you grew up in to see that a Dollar General has taken over a nostalgic house or shop that you remember fondly. And in some ways, I miss those older days of pre-social media movie anticipation: a promise of a new story, without the frills and rampant speculation.