Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #11

Re: Movie trailers

I took my three kids to see Bolt yesterday. As you probably know, Bolt is rated G. The theater ran a trailer for Coraline before Bolt. Have you seen this? Coraline is a PG-rated movie and looks pretty dang scary. My four-year-old (almost five) was so terrified that he could hardly watch Bolt. I complained to the theater itself. I have written an e-mail to the theater chain also. My sister-in-law suggested I write to Disney, since these things are probably pre-packaged. I couldn’t really find any address for concerns like this so I wrote an old fashioned letter to Disney Animation Studios.

Do you have any other suggestions? Is there someone else I can write to? I’m getting very annoyed with whoever makes the preview selections. It’s not bad enough I have to worry about what’s in the actual movie. I have no way of knowing what the previews will be. I can’t count the number of times inappropriate previews are played at a movie.

The MPAA approach to rating trailers is less granular than the movie rating system. Where movies get five different ratings (G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17), trailers have just three. Trailers deemed appropriate for “mature audiences” may be restricted to playing with PG-13 movies and up or just R or NC-17. All other trailers are rated for “all audiences.”

In practice, trailers for R-rated movies are usually only shown with R-rated movies, but trailers for PG and PG-13 movies are often classified for “all audiences” and shown with G and PG-rated movies. Matching trailers with appropriate movies (i.e., movies with a similar target audience) is a judgment call that is made on an ad hoc basis, often by the theater manager, sometimes by the studio.

Trailers that play right before the feature starts, especially if they’re from the same studio as the feature, are probably appended by the studio; trailers that come earlier in the trailer lineup, especially from other studios, are probably appended by the theater manager. Such judgment calls vary widely, from obviously appropriate to defensible to doubtful to obviously inappropriate.

It looks like the Coraline trailer may have been paired with Bolt nationwide, which would make the studio responsible. The pairing seems to me to come somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Though creepy and grotesque, Coraline is a PG-rated animated fantasy from the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, with a significant target audience overlap with Bolt.

That said, if it were my kid that had been frightened, I’d want to complain too. I think you’ve about covered all the bases I can think of. Sorry I can’t be any more help.

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