Andrew Kuehn, 66; Film Advertiser Revolutionized Motion Picture ‘Trailers’

Times Staff Writer

Andrew J. Kuehn, a movie advertising pioneer whose creativity and innovation revolutionized the motion picture “trailer,” has died. He was 66.

Kuehn, who was the founder and head of the movie advertising firm Kaleidoscope Films, died Thursday night at his Laguna Beach home of complications from lung cancer.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Feb. 6, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday February 06, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Kuehn obituary -- The obituary of Andrew J. Kuehn in Sunday’s California section erroneously said he conceived the theatrical trailer for the movie “Star Wars.” His firm’s publicist said Kuehn created the television commercials advertising the film, not the theatrical trailer.

Over the last four decades, Kuehn (pronounced Keen) conceived of trailers for an impressive array of American movies, including “Jaws,” the “Indiana Jones” trilogy, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Schindler’s List,” “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” “The French Connection,” “The Sting,” “Star Wars,” “Funny Girl,” “Aliens,” “Top Gun,” “Back to the Future” and “Witness.”


He employed smart writing, strong use of music and innovative editing to invigorate what had been the cliched genre of studio-produced previews.

“A trailer is two or three minutes long -- about the length of a song -- and I think of trailers as songs,” he told the New York Times some years ago. “One of the hardest things to do when looking at a movie is to determine the overall tone, tempo, mood, pacing and rhythm of the trailer. They may not be the same as the tone and rhythms of the picture itself.”

An example of his smart writing is the line “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water,” which he used to establish the dramatic tone of the “Jaws 2” trailer. The phrase, harking back to the seaside terror of the first “Jaws,” became buzzwords for 1978, when the film was released.

Kuehn’s gift, industry figures noted, was not only in using creative writing or music or sharp editing, but in knowing how to get the most from each of those elements in the tight format of a trailer.

“The advertising of movies would not have been done the same way without him,” Bob Harper, vice chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment, told The Times on Friday. “He came into the world of previews when they were done very conventionally, and he reinvented them. He pioneered the idea of previews as a stand-alone piece of entertainment.”

The trailers made by Kaleidoscope became the benchmark for the industry, Harper said, and Kuehn influenced or trained many of the leading producers of the form who are working today.

“Andy was ever-changing, always visually original,” Barbra Streisand said in a statement Friday. “He never relied on the same great idea twice but would create a new one specific to each film. And he was a lovely man”

Kuehn worked on trailers for the films “The Prince of Tides,” “Yentl” and the 1976 “A Star Is Born,” of which Streisand was both star and producer.

The Chicago-born Kuehn was introduced to movie trailer production while working for a local ad agency during his student years at the University of Miami.

After college, he ended up in New York City and found employment as a writer for the National Screen Service, the leading provider of movie trailers at the time. Two years later, he became head of the audiovisual advertising, promotion and publicity department at MGM.

He founded Kaleidoscope in 1968 and was actively involved in the business, even through his battle with cancer.

In 1994, he was honored by the Cannes Film Festival for a lifetime of excellence in movie marketing.

Although best known for his trailers, Kuehn also worked on feature projects. He directed and produced the documentary “Get Bruce,” which had its premiere at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. With singer Michael Feinstein, he produced and directed “The Great American Songbook,” a PBS musical documentary that aired last year. In the 1980s, he co-produced “D.O.A.,” starring Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, as well as producing the feature documentary “Terror in the Aisles,” with Donald Pleasance as host.

Kuehn is survived by his longtime partner Will Gorges and his sister Andreva Holterhoff, also of Laguna Beach.

A memorial service is planned.