While movie posters are often dismissed as mere marketing tools, the truth is that a well designed poster is a work of art in and of itself. From Gone With the Wind (1939), to Scarface (1983), to Jaws (1975)and Star Wars (1977), the posters for many classic films are just as enduring and iconic as the movies themselves.
However for more recent films, no matter how popular and well-regarded, this element seems to be missing. In a culture dominated by advertising and promotion, how is it that so little focus is put into a key part of films marketing campaigns?
In trying to explain this phenomenon, some commonly cited factors are the forced inclusion of billing blocks (the large block of credits which appear at the bottom of posters), as well as contract stipulations which dictate that actors names must appear in a specific order and font size. When such a large portion of the layout is dictated by these regulations, artists are severely limited in their layout and design choices. This can also go some way to explain the relative uniformity of modern movie posters, regardless of the films genre or target audience.
Others believe that the main cause is the increased focus on star power in promoting films. As a result of this tactic, the majority of movie posters in the current day are glorified cast photos, in contrast with the more artistic and symbolic style of many iconic movies. Perhaps the most glaring example of this are the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; whose posters without exception feature photos of the titular characters, and all have a strikingly similar colour scheme regardless of the tone and characters of the specific film in question. While Marvel have produced many of the most profitable and widely viewed films of the 21st century, it’s safe to say that the accompanying imagery won’t be nearly as fondly remembered as the blockbusters of years past.
Furthermore, the changing landscape of advertising has led many studios to treat posters as an afterthought in their promotional campaigns. As digital screens replace traditional billboards, we also see trailers and movie clips replacing static advertisements. With this shift in focus towards digital media, it’s easy to conclude to see that many studios and executives simply don’t care about the quality and originality of movie posters, or at least don’t value its importance.
While all this has led some to conclude that movie posters are a lost art, there may yet be hope for the medium. A quick Google search will reveal dozens, if not hundreds, of stunningly creative well designed fan-made posters for films released in the past few years. If studio’s take notice of these talented creators and the responses their work receives, that might be enough to encourage them to invest time and attention into poster design again, and we could see a return to form in the coming years.
Last modified: 4th March 2020