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I often hear complaints from movie-goers who think that the trailers run before the movies they bought tickets to see are inappropriate. This has become even more important now that the MPAA has made the rules about content in trailers even more opaque, Slate explains how trailers are assigned to films. For the chains, it works according to

The “quadrant” system. As many as six trailers play before features at major chains, like AMC and Regal. The studio releasing a given film typically has automatic rights to two of these slots, and theater executives (in consultation with higher-ups from various studios) select the remaining four. Though theoretically studios and theaters could attach any trailer to any movie, they usually decide which releases to promote by using the “quadrant” system, which divides potential audiences into four different categories: men under 25, women under 25, men over 25, and women over 25.

This does not apply to independent theaters, which select trailers for films they will be showing.

The Washington Post has asked me to be a contributor to their “On Success” discussion page and I have enjoyed responding to questions about the importance of vacations, the challenges faced by a woman football coach, and the possibility of second chances.

Good work from Common Sense Media, whose complaint led to Microsoft’s decision to pull an promotional video that seemed to endorse “sexting.” An ad for Microsoft’s new KIN smartphones showed a guy reaching the phone up inside his t-shirt to snap a photo to send via text to his friends. My friend Jim Steyer of CSM wrote:

It is absolutely baffling that Microsoft chose to promote the features of its new Kin phones through a video that seems to encourage sexting. Every week there is another story about teens and sexting scandals in schools. This week alone, teens in Montgomery County, Md., are under investigation for distributing nude photos via text message, and a sheriff in San Bernardino County, Calif., said that sexting is the “No. 1 problem” for middle school principals in his community.

It is both irresponsible and outrageous that an industry leader like Microsoft would take a form of digital abuse and position it as “cool and hip” in order to sell a new product that is directly targeted to a teen audience. Microsoft should pull this video and apologize for encouraging inappropriate digital media use.

Microsoft responded to the complaints from CSM and others:

Microsoft takes the issue of sexting very seriously and it was certainly never our intent to promote it in any way. The KIN marketing campaign is meant to capture the energy and playfulness of the generation of social communicators. We have received feedback that one of the KIN lifestyle videos has a scene that did not come across in the spirit it was intended. Upon further review we have acknowledged that and since removed the clip.

I’m very excited about my return to Roger Ebert’s Film Festival on Thursday. I love this festival, organized by the leading film critic in the world because it is unique. Instead of the usual quirky indies and other unreleased festival fare trying to get distribution, these are gems that have already been released but did not get what Roger thinks is the audience they deserved. Roger brings in the people who made the films to talk about them. But my favorite part is that while most festivals have far-flung simultaneous screenings that make you feel like you are running an obstacle course and always missing what everyone says was the best film of the festival, at Ebertfest there is just one film at a time, all shown at the magnificent Virginia Theater in Champaign, Illinois. I am especially looking forward to one of the annual highlights — each year, he shows a silent film with live accompaniment from the Alloy Orchestra.Ebertfest-HERO09.jpg
I’ll be reporting in from the festival, so stay tuned. And if any of you happen to be there, come over and say hello! For those who can’t make it, I recommend joining Ebert’s online club. His newsletters, available to club members only, are delightful and well worth the micro-price, less than $5 a year.

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