Star Wars: The Force Awakens will finally open in theaters this month, on Dec. 18, after one of the longest and most expensive marketing campaigns in movie history.
The rollout began more than a year ago with a cryptic trailer that featured a hooded man wielding a bizarre new lightsaber and an ominous voiceover informing us of “an awakening” in the force. Since that teaser, 16 additional trailers and commercials have been released around the world, each revealing a new piece of footage from the film.
To get a better sense of how Disney has built anticipation for this seventh installment of the Star Wars series, and just to geek out about the movie, we studied every shot from the dozen promotional spots. Our analysis reveals how the trailers frequently repeat scenes while parsing out bits of new material to generate attention. The cadence of fresh and reused clips has formed a brilliantly effective marketing campaign ahead of the film’s release.
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Overall, 29% of screen time has been spent on shots that are totally black or title cards. Each trailer has featured at least one new scene, but newer trailers have been re-using more footage.
Disney’s Empire-like trailer offensive ramped up two months prior to the film’s release. From the first trailer in November 2014 to October 2015, there were just four trailers released. Since then, there have been more than 13, including several on the same day.
We found that 535 individual clips have been featured, 125 of which were black or titles. The average length of a clip across all the trailers released so far was just 1.6 seconds, and only 1.5 seconds if you exclude all the black screens. (Some clips were so short you’d easily miss them if you blinked.) That’s faster than even Han Solo can do the Kessel Run.
Update (Dec. 4, 12:30pm ET): Previously, a shot of Kylo Ren in the rain was logged as having appeared multiple times in succession rather than as one shot. We have updated the statistics to reflect those instances as a single occurrence.