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Trailers Battle It Out During 'Harry Potter' Showing

One Audience's Reaction to Two of Next Summer's Anticipated Releases

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This past weekend I helped add to Warner Bros.' coffers when I took in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I." I got to the theater early enough not only for good seats (you know, that first row along the railing so you can put your feet up) but because I knew the first teaser trailers for "The Green Lantern" and "Cowboys & Aliens" would be showing and I was curious as to the audience reaction.

A little background: Last week saw the debut of both trailers, and comics book and movie blogs have parsed both trailers. Spinoff Online calls the trailers' showdown the start of summer 2010 -- and it's not kidding: the Memorial Day to Labor Day period will be packed with comic-book and comic-book-esque tentpoles, so this early tease of teaser trailers is made to whet the fan boys appetites and get bragging rights and buzz building as soon as possible.

That buzz has been decidedly mixed, at least online, where at the end of the day is how early buzz winds up. Eavesdropping at the local comic book shop last Wednesday on the chatter over the "Green Lantern" trailer left me with the impression that the never-ending debate over the quality of CGI -- particular that of actor Ryan Reynolds' superhero costume -- would continue through to next summer. I also was under the impression the comic-buying crowd was slightly underwhelmed, considering the early excitement coming out of last summer's Comic-Con.

Cowboys & Aliens trailer

So I wanted to see for myself how an audience would react to the trailers, especially one that might not be full of comic-book fans. As both movies are tentpoles looking to attract as wide of a moviegoing crowd as possible, I figured the "Harry Potter" audience would be a decent focus group of sorts, especially considering the wide age range at the showing I was at.

The verdict: I think each film's studio has its marketing work cut out for it before next summer. That said, I think the studios -- Universal for "Cowboys" and Warner Bros. for "Green Lantern" -- at least got what they were looking for: early recognition. And on that end, "Cowboys & Aliens" may have come out ahead. The movie is based on a 2006 graphic novel of the same name that probably isn't known to too many people. And unless you follow "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau's Twitter feed, you didn't know much about this project. But teaser for the movie, starring the Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, seemed to catch people's attention -- until the end, when the title flashed on screen. There were quite a few laughs at the name, but at least moviegoers will remember "Cowboys & Aliens." The question is if they'll take it seriously.

Green Lantern trailer

The "Green Lantern" trailer did not lack for any seriousness -- a element noted in comments I read last week -- but it does have a laugh line at the end that went over well during my screening. I don't know if that comic touch is going to be enough, though, but it will take something like that -- meaning a more nuanced Hal Jordan in future trailers than a heroic Green Lantern -- rather than special effects to help fill seats next summer. Audiences have grown accustomed to relating to the alter ego more than the superhero, thanks to the latest theatrical installments of Batman and especially Robert Downey's portrayal of Iron Man's Tony Stark. You can see that awareness in these two early trailers for the first "Iron Man."

First Iron Man trailer

Second Iron Man trailer

Aris Georgiadis is assistant managing editor for Ad Age and editor of Madison & Vine. You can also find him on Twitter.
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