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Monday, January 20, 2014

Movie Poster Art

Guess the movie.
Would you want to see this movie?
This is not about movies. It's about what makes us want to see movies. Second only to the movie's trailer (coming attraction clip) that would be all about movie posters. Have you ever seen a movie poster and instantly decided, ohh man, this I gotta see. By the same token, you've no doubt seen a few movie posters in which, one look, and your reaction is something to the effect, "never in a million years." As with movies, and virtually all art, the artist creates for a particular audience. Inasmuch as motion pictures demand a rather broad audience to be financially successful, a similar criteria applies to those posters advertising them (or perhaps, a deep attraction by a relatively narrow base in the case of a film which becomes a cult classic like Rocky Horror Picture Show). Most movie posters, unfortunately fall somewhere in between this two extremes, conveying little more than "who, what, when, and where." If they excite the emotions, all the better, but let's face it, as time progresses, not to mention movies and their posters, that keeps getting harder and harder to do. 

Remember this?
It came in two formats.
One movie poster playing off
that of a competitor.
The movie poster, perhaps more than any other art form, demands that the designer create an image so iconic that it is instantly identified with the movie. Stephen Spielberg's Jaws is an example. The poster, in this case, may have had more to do with the success of the film than any other factor. If I were to mention Rocky Horror Picture Show (left), what first comes to mind? Lips, right--male lips and lots and lots of lipstick. One of the problems in discussing movie posters as an art form is the difficulty in separating the impact of the poster from that of the film itself. Gone With The Wind (above) had a broad variety of extremely effective movie posters, but was it the movie or the poster with Rhett and Scarlett in a steamy embrace which sold the millions of tickets? There are even numerous cases when the movie's poster was far more powerful, far better art, than the movie itself. The Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman (bottom, left), from 1958, for example. What male with a single drop of testosterone in his blood could resist that concept, much less the fantastic poster selling it? The movie? Uhh...disappointing. Think what they could do with an R-rated remake today, though.

1882--the cast mattered little, the
writer and director even less.
Early movie posters were similar. 
1902--the first true movie poster
features the most important
people in any movie.
Movie posters are actually older than the movies. The first appeared in 1882 advertising a stage play titled Ranch 10 (above, left). How does that make it a movie poster? I suppose, technically, it wasn't, but it certainly was the seed from which movie posters first appeared. The first poster actually promoting a movie was probably for a 1902 French experimental film titled Cinematographe Lumiere (above, right), from the pioneering Lumiere brothers. It featured the all-important audience watching the film.

Whoa...this I gotta see!
Some movie posters might actually
discourage attendance. A 100 ft.
tarantula doesn't have quite the
same appeal as a 50 ft. woman.

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