Racy movie trailers are on the rise
‘Red band’ previews for R-rated films are proliferating, especially on the Internet.
They depict more blood, gore, and violence than usual. They display more skin and include cruder language. But movie studio execs insist that “red band trailers” – so called for the red, “restricted audiences only” warning that precedes the explicit previews – do not represent an intentional coarsening of American sensibilities.Skip to next paragraph
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Rather, they are a marketing phenomenon that has resurfaced with the proliferation of R-rated movies and the growth of the Internet, especially the popularity of viral mediums like YouTube.
With the Hollywood box office faltering after years of record-breaking income, the proliferation of these trailers is also being seen as more evidence that movies feel the need to grab customers by the lapels to get their attention.
The film industry claims the additional freedom helps them more accurately portray what’s in their R-rated films. “These have become a growing part of the marketing campaigns for all the kinds of films that can take advantage of what red band trailers offer,” says Adam Fogelson, president of marketing and distribution for Universal Pictures.
“We have been severely hamstrung in selling these kinds of movies without the ability to get a trailer that accurately represents the content and style of these films. It’s been very hard to help audiences make an informed choice without these,” he adds.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) – the body responsible for the red, yellow, and green color band designations on trailers – has approved 30 red band trailers this year, equal to the number approved in the previous seven years.
Once in more common use, red band trailers fell out of favor when a Federal Trade Commission report in 2000 targeted the trailers as evidence that moviemakers were aiming R-rated content at children.
Studios resurrecting them now claim to be using them as a niche marketing tool to reach select audiences for selective content.
The practice gained momentum in March this year with the announcement that Regal Entertainment Group – which operates 6,388 screens in 39 states – announced they will be showing restricted trailers in their theaters, though only before NC-17 or R-rated movies. The corporation declined to comment on the reasons for the move.
According to the MPAA, distributors who have long lobbied for the use of restricted trailers were pleased with the decision because it allows them to market restricted content to the right audience.
“Having trailers play only before appropriate audiences for a movie provides the filmmaker with the opportunity to give the audience a more accurate preview of an upcoming film, while at the same time fulfilling MPAA’s primary obligation to parents to preclude marketing of inappropriate content directly to their children,” says an MPAA document.