Monday, August 27, 2007

What You See Is Not What You Get

By Mike Gillis

You've probably seen only a handful, if any, "red-band" trailers at the theater. The previews that precede most movies typically begin with a green screen that cite a picture's rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, but add it's OK to watch the trailer, approved for all audiences.

Red-band trailers begin with a red screen and warn the upcoming preview is approved for restricted audiences only -- anyone under 17 should cover their eyes and ears. Why? Red-band trailers don't have to skimp on the gore, the sex or the language. In essence, they better represent the R- or NC-17-rated picture advertised.

I can recall seeing only one of these trailers at the theater -- I don't remember for what picture -- and perhaps a few more on video. They were not widely seen, until recently.

As it turns out, red-band trailers are popping up all over the web, used to reach wider and often niche audiences.

Miramax has added a "red-band" trailer at its site for the upcoming Coen Brothers picture, "No Country for Old Men". It's the perfect example of what "red-band" trailers do: It ups the violence quotient and gives us a more accurate look at what to expect from the latest Cohens offering. Certainly it's not about the blood, but the Coens aren't known for pulling punches in their darkest offerings -- "Blood Simple", "Barton Fink" and even "Fargo," for example.

Trailers are a hot commodity on the web for one reason: They can fuel substantial buzz. Many genre pictures in recent years -- action, crime, sci-fi and horror -- have been touted before release with red-band trailers, as studios recognize the core audience wants a sample of what earned the picture its R-rating: language, violence, sex.

But other less commercial pictures have used the red-band trailer to help better illustrate a message. For instance, a red-band trailer for Michael Winterbottom's pseudo-documentary, "The Road to Guantanamo," lets us know that the director's take on torture at Guantanamo Bay isn't for the whole family.

Which makes me wonder why you'd want to release a scrubbed-clean preview for a film like "Slither" -- whose red-band trailer was a hit on the web -- before a screening of, say "King Kong". Trailers are designed to attract people to a movie and age isn't a factor, which is why most R-rated films are promoted with previews approved for all ages. What other purpose is there for releasing a trailer for a film that boasts horrific violence or copious sex, but still suitable for all ages?

In the end it likely matters little. How many times have you been disappointed after watching a movie whose trailer was so much better?

Here's a link to some recent red-band trailers: Click here.