- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

“Superbad” doesn’t have big stars, fiery explosions or even a numeral after its title. But it did have a naughty trailer circulating online for weeks before it opened.

The R-rated trailer, known in the industry as a red band trailer, told audiences this wasn’t your friendly neighborhood comedy. It’s a hard R-rated film, and apparently the message got out to enough age-appropriate people.

The film earned $8 million more last weekend for a total of $104 million in just four weeks.

Anyone who sat through “Superbad” knows much of the film’s content can’t be shown to a general audience. So Internet users found the red band trailer online, typed in their year of birth and gained access to a sampling of the film’s sordid gags.

Red band trailers aren’t new, but “Superbad’s” expert use of them could mean more studios will see red when promoting their products.

Check out www.aintitcool.com, the ultimate site for movie geeks, and you’ll find headlines blaring the latest red band trailer updates.

They’re already part of the pop culture lexicon.

The studios behind the upcoming features “Resident Evil: Extinction” and the “Alien vs. Predator” sequel have posted red band trailers on their respective movie sites.

Gitesh Pandya, editor of www.boxofficeguru.com, says the red band trailer “was an integral part of [‘Superbad’s’] overall campaign and a big part of its success.”

The trailer gave high school and college students something to discuss during their school break.

“It generated a lot of buzz,” Mr. Pandya says. “They really talked up the movie. In a summer filled with dozens of movies aimed at teenagers, that really helped it stand out from the crowd.”

There would have been less to talk about if the trailer weren’t so bleeping funny.

Marc Weinstock, executive vice president of marketing for Screen Gems, says his studio decided to release a red band trailer for “Resident Evil: Extinction” after the film’s R-rated footage went over big at the recent Comic Con event in San Diego.

“They went crazy for it. It would be great to get this on the Web,” Mr. Weinstock says.

First, the studio had to build up its age-verification system. Once it was in place, the trailer went online.

“We’ve been going to Comic Con for years. We had R-rated content but we could never get it on the Web,” he says.

So far, the R-rated “Evil” trailer has had “hundreds of thousands” of downloads, says Mr. Weinstock, whose studio will also release a red band trailer for the bawdy comedy “First Sunday.” “ ’Resident Evil’ is tracking really well right now, and the red band material has helped.”

These adult trailers aren’t a perfect fit for every ad campaign. You wouldn’t need a red band trailer to promote “Michael Clayton,” George Clooney’s classy new legal drama.

But Mr. Pandya says if you’re assigned to market a new horror film, it makes perfect sense to let gore groupies see some bloodshed in the trailer.

“For horror films, the red band trailer can make them really stand out,” Mr. Pandya says.

Moviegoers under 18 don’t have to be computer geniuses to skate past the authentication barrier on some red band trailers. Some provide more security obstacles than others, Mr. Pandya says.

But a rigorous screening process likely won’t stop teens from checking out the latest red band trailers.

“Young teenagers are some of the most creative people around. They’ll find a way to watch them,” he says.

Somewhere, a studio executive is grinning ear to ear.

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