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Red-band trailers: Why parents should know what they are, and how easy they are to access

Published: Friday, Aug. 16 2013 10:30 a.m. MDT

A scene from the film "We're the Millers."

Warner Bros.

When Maple Mountain High School theater and film teacher Bradley Moss suggested a student watch the "Evil Dead" online movie trailer to provide clarity for a film assignment, he was surprised when the student returned a little shaken up.

"That was the worst thing ever,” Moss was told.

Rather than the traditional "green-band" trailer that's approved for appropriate audiences and that moviegoers might see before the feature presentation at their local theater, Moss' student watched what's called a red-band trailer, not knowing that the preview for the 2013 horror film would be extremely graphic.

Yes, the color that precedes the trailer makes a big difference.

Such scenarios are not uncommon, thanks to the popularity and ubiquitous nature of online trailers, which are key marketing tools for films. But do parents know such trailers exist, and could their kids be accessing them with an easy swipe of an iPad screen?

Red-band trailers are advertisements for upcoming films that display a red background (in place of the usual green background) signaling that the upcoming two and a half minutes contain content featuring sex, violence and profanity.

Essentially, it's a movie trailer that depicts R-rated content. Red-band trailers, or Restricted Audience Advertising, are shown almost exclusively online.

Green-band trailers are the ones most widely shown in theaters prior to a film and are supposed to be edited of content that parents may consider offensive.

These trailers are either marketed for "all audiences" or "appropriate audiences." The difference between the two? Trailers made for "appropriate audiences" show to audiences made primarily of adults.

The MPAA mandates that red-band trailers be reserved only for websites that require an age-gate, which verifies that visitors are 17 or older, according to a 2009 report from the Federal Trade Commission. Sites that do not require patrons to verify their age should have a majority of adult traffic.

But the trailers are easily accessed. For example, Yahoo Movies simply asks visitors to confirm that they are at least 17 by clicking a box. A link to "Red Band Trailers" is featured prominently on the site's menu.

YouTube requires users to sign in to confirm their age.

"The system is a deterrent at best," writes entertainment blogger Peter Sciretta on his blog, slashfilm.com. "Any little kid could easily enter in their parents' name and birthday for full access."

Some websites, such as Cinemovie, don’t require any age verification.

And this marketing method is growing. According to a New York Times article, film studios released only 30 red-band trailers from 2000 to 2006. In 2009, that number jumped to 76.

The MPAA was unable to confirm how many red-band trailers were produced last year.

The recently released comedy “We’re the Millers” promoted a red-band trailer that gave a slice of the R-rated film truer to form than the trailer released for general audiences.

“The new red-band trailer … lives up to the rating with lots of crude sexual content and pervasive language coming out of Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston’s mouths,” according to the entertainment news website Cinemovie.

But despite the ability to be more liberal with explicit content from films, anything doesn't go.

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