“Green Band” trailers begin with a notice that says that while the movie has been rated something else, the trailer itself has been approved for all audiences by the MPAA. I am sure that sometimes the people who make trailers have a tough time finding two or three minutes of clips for the trailer that don’t have bad language, sex, or violence. As a result, despite the warning, the trailer often gives a misleading impression of the movie’s content. R-rated movies have red band trailers, which can only be shown before R-rated movies because they include R-rated content. These were quite rare until recently because most theaters did not allow them.
And then came the internet. Red band trailers are available online and any 12 year old who knows the birth date of an adult can easily get access to them. Slate’s Josh Levin writes about the sharp rise in red band trailers:
R-rated trailers–known as “red bands” on account of the red, “Restricted Audiences Only” warning that precedes them–have become omnipresent. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, nearly 30 restricted-audience trailers have been approved so far in 2008, already matching the number accepted between 2000 and 2006…
Given the popularity of movie trailers on the Web, the potential audience for a red-band preview has gone from minuscule in the Showgirls era to virtually limitless in the time of Pineapple Express and Zack and Miri. Compared with an R-rated trailer that’s screened in theaters, a Web-based red band is more likely to get talked up and to reach a target audience of (possibly under-17) fan boys who’ll line up for a screening on opening weekend.
Trailers are still subject to tighter restrictions than the feature films themselves due to the intensified impact of the short form. But because they are quick to watch they are especially potent and viral and are now an indispensible and fast-growing element of movie marketing. As Levin notes, these trailers may give a more accurate idea of what is in the movie but they are also more likely to give away more of the good parts of the movie. For parents, they create yet another challenge in a media minefield already filled with too many traps.