New Line tries X-rated Web game

Thanks to an X-rated Web game, New Line may have been able to break its upcoming crime thriller “Running Scared” out of the pack.

Mini-major’s been able to generate significant publicity online about the R-rated pic in the week and a half since launching the game, in which players re-enact several key action scenes as Paul Walker’s Joey Gazelle character from “Running Scared.”

The buzz stems from the part of the game that clearly falls into the NSFW (not safe for work) category — a scene in which Joey performs oral sex on his wife.

New Line execs said the number of visits to the game part of were doubling every day, with 200,000 visits as of Friday. And they noted that New Line’s using a proven age-verification system — similar to those used for online tobacco and liquor sales — to exclude those under 17 from entering that part of the site.

What motivated New Line to go the X-rated route? Blame Harold Lee and Kumar Patel of “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle.”

Exec VP Gordon Paddison explains that New Line faced a similar dilemma two years ago in trying to create trailers and ads that would convey the humor of “Harold and Kumar” and still pass muster with the MPAA.

Despite some strong critical notices, the stoner comedy underperformed at the box office with $18 million but has become a decent DVD seller, with plans for straight-to-disc sequel in the works.

“It was impossible to duplicate the feel and intensity of ‘Harold and Kumar’ in the trailers that the MPAA approved,” Paddison admitted. “We’ve got a similar challenge with ‘Running Scared.’ We’re trying to be aggressive in reaching our target audience and responsible at the same time.”

There’s more than sex at the game site, where each level of play is preceded by a movie clip to set up the action. Site also includes an exclusive debut of the first six minutes of “Running Scared.”

To get into the game part of the site, users have to input their name and address as they appear on a driver’s license or another government-issued ID. Site then verifies that info against public records; New Line insists that the verification info is not retained or used for any other purposes.

“Per our stated privacy policy, New Line will only record a consumer’s name and email address if they opt-in to receive email from us about our movies,” Paddison said. “This information is never sold or given to any other parties.”

Paddison also said the age-verification system meets the restrictions set by the MPAA to ensure that site visitors who access “mature” materials are of an appropriate age.

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