Universal Studios has pulled a horror movie trailer that was going to run with its blockbuster movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" in a move that illustrates Hollywood's increased sensitivity to charges it markets violent films to children.
The decision was made last week after several major theater chains said they were afraid the trailer for "The Mummy Returns" was too intense for young children, who will be watching "Grinch."
Universal would not have violated industry guidelines by showing the trailer for "The Mummy Returns," which is expected to open in May with a PG-13 rating, in front of "Grinch," which is rated PG.
Guidelines adopted by the Motion Picture Assn. of America and the National Assn. of Theater Owners discourage showing trailers for R-rated films before movies rated G or PG.
Universal acted in large part because of recent charges levied by the Federal Trade Commission and members of Congress, who have sharply criticized entertainment companies for marketing violent and sexually explicit films, video games and music to young children.
"Clearly, the FTC attention is an issue," Terry Curtin, head of publicity for Universal Studios said Wednesday. "I think we would have reached this decision in any environment. Whenever you're dealing with very young children, you have to err on the side of caution."
The studio expected the audience for "Grinch" would include children as young as 8 and that the trailer for "Mummy," while action-packed and showing gun and sword battles, would be appropriate. It shipped the 2 1/2-minute trailer with about 4,200 prints of "Grinch."
But early last week, several major theater chains previewed the trailer and told the studio they expected children as young as 4 to see "Grinch." Theater owners asked studio executives to take another look at the trailer with a younger audience in mind.
Curtin said top studio executives, including Universal Chairman Stacey Snider, watched the preview in a screening room and agreed it should not be shown.
"We just operated on moral responsibility," Curtin said. "It probably helped that all the people in the room were parents."