The ‘red band trailer’ is an effective marketing tool utilised by several production companies to promote their more adult-oriented films. These trailers are meant for more mature audiences and contain racy language and visuals and more violence than a regular trailer would.
Have you ever wondered where the term ‘red band’ came from and what is the real history behind or did you make a factual assumption and move on without a care in the world? The story behind red band trailers and indeed, other bands, is an interesting one.
The history of trailers
Trailers were originally distributed by Paramount in the 1910s, with a company called the National Screening Service (NSS) making crude 35mm film ads for the sole purpose of running them at the end of feature films, hence the term ‘trailer’ was coined.
When film studios realised the marketing potential of these trailers, they began supplying film footage to the NSS themselves to capitalize on this phenomenon. In the early days, the title card that preceded the trailer was mostly blue.
In 1968, the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) was established which founded the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). 3 years after the formation of the MPAA, a rating system was introduced classifying green-band trailers those allowed to be shown before any film while red band trailers were only allowed to be screened before films rated R or X.
When did red band trailers catch on?
Red band trailers were commonplace in theatres for a long period in the 20th century until 1999, when the trailer of American Pie became the last red band trailer to feature in a theatre due to a Federal Trade Commission report that complained that these trailers weren’t being regulated properly and being exposed to younger audiences.
With the rise of the internet, the 2000s were considered the perfect time for red band trailers to make a comeback. They were released behind an age verification system and most production companies saw the appeal of the internet and websites like YouTube where they could upload trailers to promote their films.
In 2007 the raunchy teen comedy, Superbad, released a green-band and red band trailer and heavily leant on the latter during its marketing campaign which ended up being a big part of its success.
Other types of bands
Apart from the usual red and green band title cards, in 2007 a special yellow title card was introduced specifically for trailers that were released on the internet. These trailers were released on websites mostly frequented by adults or were accessible only between 9 pm and 4 am.
The yellow title card was mostly used for films that had a PG-13 rating or stronger. This practice has never really caught in although yellow bands are occasionally created as was in the case of Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ (2007).
Impact of the red band trailer
With such a wealth of films and television shows being released today to cater to a wide array of audiences, the need for trailers to have some leeway when it comes to the content they’re allowed to share is necessary.
Red band trailers are not just constricted to sexually explicit material, they are also used to promote media with grotesque amounts of violence as well as films with psychologically troubling concepts. Giving the audience even a small glimpse of what they can expect through a trailer will help them decide on wanting to watch the film eventually.
It promises to build up the excitement for an upcoming feature by appealing to the die-hard fans who are looking for a true depiction of what the feature is about in its most sincere form.
In February of 2021, the teaser for the film Mortal Kombat was viewed over 116 million times in its first week, making it the most viewed red band trailer of all time, surpassing previous frontrunners ‘Logan’ and ‘Deadpool 2’.
These lofty numbers are a testament to the effect a trailer has in the lead up to any particular project and as long as these figures are maintained, studios will continue to produce red band trailers in all their explicit glory.
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