I haven’t watched the clip from The Big Sick that Amazon released yesterday as part of their efforts to get people out to the theater. Too many people on Twitter were saying not to click through since the scene that’s excerpted is a key one in the movie and delivers one of the biggest laughs.
Similar warnings were given in advance of the theatrical release of Manchester By The Sea. In that case it was again Amazon that released a clip that contained one of the movie’s most heartbreaking and emotional scenes, something that was part of the climax of the story.
Why does Amazon love taking what are reported to be the best scenes out of context and spoiling them to audiences in advance of release?
On the one hand this makes sense. Everyone has come out of these two movies talking about *that* scene, saying that’s the one that audiences to date have responded to the most strongly and which is going to be discussed more as the movie is released widely. It’s the cornerstone scene, the one that everything kind of builds toward or which is a major turning point in the story. So Amazon wants to get that out there as part of the appeal to the audience, particularly the general audience who might have followed some of the buzz out of Sundance and wants to see even more of the movie everyone’s talking about. It’s a big talkable moment and Amazon doesn’t want to leave anything in the chamber.
On the other hand, these scenes appear to be a big part of the reason to see the movie. So by showing off a key moment from the story out of context, this tactic takes away the emotional impact of the movie.
Movies aren’t records, where you can take Track 7 and put it on the radio and have it represent the whole album because Track 7 (unless you’re King Crimson, Pink Floyd or The Who) can live on its own, without the setup of Tracks 1-6 and the follow-through of Tracks 8-12. It’s fine. Taking a scene out of a movie reminds me of the parable of the 12 blind men who are arranged around an elephant, they draw conclusions about the whole based on a very small sample size.
To be fair, Amazon isn’t the only studio/distributor to release clips ahead of release. Just the other day Illumination/Universal dropped a half-dozen or more clips from Despicable Me 3. But it’s the second time it has taken not just an expanded version of a scene we’ve seen in the trailers already but one that has become a core part of the movie’s appeal. I’d heard of the moments from The Big Sick and Manchester By The Sea back when they debuted at festivals and knew they were important and noteworthy.
Amazon is betting that the word of mouth generated by these clips will be a benefit to the theatrical release more than it will be a detriment. It’s counting on the audience watching them – or at least seeing more discussion about them – and saying that seeing the movie is important because it will allow them to be part of the conversation. It’s a big bet and one that movie nerds don’t see to be fully on board with, but until it stops working it’s safe to assume not only will Amazon continue to do this for their prestige releases but other studios will adopt the tactic as well.