The Color of the Background Preceding Movie Trailers Actually Means Something

redbandToday I found out the color of the background preceding movie trailers actually means something.

These colors show up as the background for movie rating cards. The rating for the film itself shows up in text, but the rating for the preview shows up not only in text, but is also indicated by the background color of the rating card splash screen.

There are three colors you might see preceding each movie trailer, red, yellow, and green.  The specific regulations surrounding what can be shown in the preview for each of these rating cards are set by the MPAA, though the rules are not publicly made available.

Probably the most commonly seen one is the green rating card.  Before April of 2009, a green background meant that the preview was approved for all audiences.  Since April of 2009, the MPAA now states that the green card is for “appropriate audiences”.  This basically means it is appropriate for audiences in theaters, taking into account what movie the audience is about to watch.

A yellow rating card indicates the preview is for age-appropriate Internet viewers and is used on internet trailers only.  The red rating card indicates that content in the preview is only appropriate for mature audiences.  These previews can only be shown in theaters where the movie about to be watched is R-rated, NC-17-rated, or unrated.

Bonus Facts:

  • Theatrical trailers must be less than two minutes and 30 seconds, as mandated by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America).  The MPAA gives each movie studio one exception to this a year where they are allowed to show a trailer that is longer than 2 minutes and 30 seconds.  Trailers shown online can be any length.
  • The MPAA very controversially doesn’t release their specific guidelines as to what content will receive what rating.  They simply state that the content they consider in determining the final rating is sex, violence, nudity, language, adult topics, and drug use.
  • The rating system itself is entirely voluntary on the part of studios.  However, having a film rated tends to boost revenues significantly, so nearly all major studios submit all their films for rating.  There can also be a negative effect of ratings though.  Films that are rated G, but are not meant for kids necessarily, often see a significant drop in expected revenue, largely thought to be due to adults and teens thinking the movie is a kids movie and so don’t go to see it.  The same effect has been observed to a lesser extend with PG movies, particularly those targeted at teenagers, who don’t go see them because they feel PG means “kids movie”.
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