Monday, January 29, 2007

WHAT HAPPENED TO FILM POSTERS?

This (above) is what the film-going public got in 1937.

This (above) is what the film-going public got in 2006. Kinda minimal, isn't it?

This (above) is the kind of poster fans got in 1945...

...and this Above) is what film fans got in 2005. Minimal isn't the word; this new poster is bleak! What a difference 60 years made!

Here's another poster (above) from 1936 . If I weren't so sleepy I'd put up a cool film poster that I found from 1912. Take my word for it that poster artists in 1912 could kick our butts! How did that come about!?




36 comments:

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

John: Thanks for the idea for this post!

Jorge: I just went to ASIFA's site and noticed that you were a contributor! A tip of the Theory Hat to you!

Sean Worsham said...

I guess executives know nothing about composition, painting or drawing. Just clip a scene from the movie and paste on poster using photoshop (stupid executives) :).

Anonymous said...

Maybe one reason for the change of movie posters is that they are no longer so essential for informing the public about a films story. We are very informed through directed television and Internet advertisements, that the poster alone does not need to sell a story. Therefore, the energy spent on them may be reduced. ANy thoughts?

I think if I saw a traditionally illustrated movie poster, I would very much enoy it. I wonder why I rarely see painted/illustrated/drawn movie posters in the United States anymore? That recent Bad News Bears movie was illustrated, but that was sort of a nostalgic move, right? Do you think Americans are resistant toward illustrated movie posters?

Nate Birch said...

I like the 40-year Old Virgin one. It's minimilism done right. The movie went from being nowhere on the radar to making hundreds of millions of dollars last year...based largely around an advertising campaign based around that image.

There *are* a ton of really bad movie posters these days though. Just really blatant ugly Photoshop work.

Jennifer said...

Nice post, Uncle Eddie. Do you know that original movie posters from "way back when" are considered "fine art"?

The Jerk said...

maybe they make lousy posters because they don't want to have a poster be better than the movie it advertises, like happened with the 1970's King Kong. seriously cool poster, crummy film.

Steve Schnier said...

I've read a few articles about the demise of the illustrated movie poster. Photoshop seems to be the main culprit. Drew Struzan (www.drewstruzan.com) who did the Star Wars posters and continues to do the "Harry Potters" says on his website that his business has drastically dropped off in the past few years.

I'm definitely having an illustrated poster for my movie. You can check out our production blog at:
http://ebay-movie.blogspot.com

Steve Schnier said...

I'm sorry, Drew Struzan's website doesn't say that his business has declined. It was a quote in an article that I'd read a while back. I'll try to provide the link.

S.G.A said...

Yeah posters today are mostly done by computer programs..... I can just imagine some guy being proud of his latest computer made creation....."blechhh"

Anonymous said...

I used to wonder that too...the reason seems to be the same one that deprives great illustrators of jobs in magazines: everyone wants to see photographs. At least, that's what surveys and focus groups have reported for the last 40 years or so.

The last wonderful age of non-photographic movie posters was in the 70s...and the last of that breed was Drew Struzan(who of course doesn't get anywhere near the jobs he once did. Whatever you think of his style, he is an artist).
It's a real pity.

PCUnfunny said...

"Just clip a scene from the movie and paste on poster using photoshop (stupid executives) :)."

That is exactly what I was about to post. I miss hand drawn posters. Today these posters look like they were made by thirteen year olds with photoshop programs. I wouldn't mind the photoshop if it were done right but it isn't. The characters are just randomly pasted with no sense of composition.

Ryan G. said...

Graphic Artists and "design" have evolved over the years utilizing negative space, Huge text and eye catching colors. Its that advertising thing that does work but isnt as exciting as a beautifully rendered poster.

Jorge Garrido said...

Thanks, Eddie!

About film posters: Maybe becasue execs feel time is money?

The Iron Giant attempted to have an old style movie poster, but in my opinion it was less than succesful.

The Majestic did as well, but it was ruined by the cheap photoshop paint filtering. I could do a better job than that of making it look like a painting. They should have just painted it for real.

There was a movie-within-a-movie in the Majestic, and the faux poster they created for that seems like the best out of the three, but it was a tad too realistic for my taste and too static.

Brian Romero said...

The main reason for the decline of illustration in general is the use of photography. It's cheaper and faster. Now movie stars also demand in their contracts that their image and name must be prominent on all advertising. The jobs available to skilled artists continues to shrink. Luckily I do photography too!

;-)

Max Ward said...

I think the idea that executives have if they ever try to go "retro" with movie posters is that it has to be painted. I think the idea is making the movie look like the most amazing, crammed packed 2 or so hours you will ever have. It doesn't need to look or feel old for it to be effective.

Max Ward said...

Also, Eddie, I won't change my mind about you speaking at my graduation! You've certainly been a huge influence and inspiration to me and I think a whole class full of industry bound animators need a little Eddie Fitzgerald to send them off.

Eric Dotseth said...

What about the reduced attention span most modern movie viewers suffer? The older film posters had more activity than the modern movie posters.

ryan said...

i agree. old movie posters are awesome

Kali said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kali Fontecchio said...

A recent poster I saw trying to capture the old style:

The Good German

Pete Emslie said...

I hate contemporary movie posters with their bland photo groupings. I love illustrated movie posters by the likes of Bob Peak, Robert McGinnis (all those great 60's James Bond films!) and the legion of great artists who painted tons of great stuff in the 30's through 50's whose names I'm ashamed to not know.

I also loved it when a studio decided to be more daring and had the posters done by cartoonists like Jack Davis, Ronald Searle and especially my hero, caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. In fact, before he hit it big in the NY Times Hirschfeld once was an art director at MGM's publicity department, illustrating all those wonderful Marx Bros. posters and a bunch of MGM musicals posters, including several different ones for "The Wizard of Oz".

What I think is quite telling is that I can visualize countless illustrated movie posters in my mind, yet precious few contemporary Photoshopped ones. The illustrations are often so bold and beautiful that they become iconic. Just think of the ones for "Gone With the Wind", "My Fair Lady", the Saul Bass designed "Man With the Golden Arm" as well as the last of the breed from the 70's/early 80's including "Star Wars", "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and of course, "Jaws". Those images stick in your mind forever.

The final insult is when idiotic marketing types decide to give an illustrated poster the Photoshopped photo makeover. They did this to the once excellent "Young Frankenstein" poster, replacing all the painted characters with their film still source counterparts. Absolutely tragic...

Max Ward said...

Does anyone else think that you can capture what is great about these moive posters without being retro or nostalgic?

If the 40 year old virgin poster was a painting and used a classic font it wouldn't make the movie seem anymore intersting.

Vice Versca

HemlockMan said...

Jesus. That's freaking depressing.

Mad Max Winston said...

I totally agree with this topic! This is something I have been thinking of for quite some time now.

It's not the technique (photoshop, painting, etc.) that they are using which makes these new movie posters bland and un-informative (or too informative), it's the horrible compositions they chose to use! Many older film posters have VERY well thought out compositions. Some of my favorites are for Rosemary's Baby and JAWS.

Did anyone see the teaser poster for Snakes on a Plane? It was just a drawing of the image of snakes wrapped around a plane, about to attack it. Two GIANT snakes on this plane. Then the actual poster came out, and it was horrible! Just all the actors from the film thrown together in no particualer composition. Bad. The teaser poster was one of the best film posters I've seen in years though.

Here's some links: (I don't know how to hyperlink)

ROsemary's Baby: http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/MG/204565.jpg
JAWS: http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/PE/867010.jpg
SOAP teaser: http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/FUN/3627.jpg
SOAP regular: http://www.movieposter.com/posters/archive/main/39/MPW-19787

Also, I think a similar thing can be said about movie previews these days. They show me so much of the movie, I don't even want to see it!

Jeff Pidgeon said...

Photography didn't kill good poster design, but it probably didn't do it any favors (in terms of the style you like).

Another factor that probably doesn't help is that a lot of the people who make movies now have agents who make sure the client's name is first, they their picture is on the poster, that it's a certain size, etc. That can't help but hinder design work, and that results in a lot of layouts that I call, "five heads and a title" - they're pretty easy to spot.

Two modern posters that I like are from The Rocketeer and V For Vendetta. Both of them steal from older art styles, but I think they do it well.

Eric O. Costello said...

One element is the fact that (like circus posters), many of the pre-1948 posters were made through stone lithography, which produced rich, vibrant colours ideal for posters. Whose purpose, of course, was to catch the eye of passers-by.

Really, this sort of ballyhoo (to use the circus term) is something of a lost art. Look at press books from the 1930s, too. There were a lot of interesting drawings done for them, too. (Cf. Hirschfeld's wonderful drawings for 1944's "Meet Me In St. Louis.")

Max Ward said...

Jeff Pidgeon: Thank you for explaining it perfectly!

Pete Emslie said...

I agree with Mad Max Winston regarding the "Snakes on a Plane" teaser poster - that was a brilliant graphic that really made a visual impression on me the first time I saw it. Another thing I find hilarious about these modern-day posters is the fact that many times you're seeing a composite of the actor's head Photoshopped onto a body double, since the poster concept is often created sometime after the film is in the can and the actors are no longer available for photo shoots. Sometimes the cropped head on body is painfully obvious too. (Seek out the poster for "What About Bob?" with its bad, straight line head graftings of Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss, redeemed however by a great cartoony shadow graphic behind them.) Ironically, this type of situation probably happened all the time, yet the skill of a movie poster illustrator could create a harmonious result where the painted image completely hides any trace of a mix 'n' match photo compilation.

I remember bemoaning the lack of Jack Davis illustrated posters sometime after the 70's/early 80's to a friend who was also a classic movie poster fan. He told me that he'd heard that studio types today were afraid of using a cartoon illustration on the poster out of concern that the audience might think the movie itself was an animated cartoon! Frankly, I don't think the audiences are that dumb, but I suspect most movie publicity types are.

Anonymous said...

I think most of the reasons have been mentioned.

One reason not mentioned is that posters used to be used to grab pedestrians off the street- now people rarely walk by a theatre (they drive), except when they are walking by the 20 or so at the nearby multiplex.

I think billing clauses in star contracts (something that grew worse after the death of the studio system) have had a bit of a stranglehold on poster design. That is another reason you see photos, or a photoshop hack, so that there is no argument over the rendering or interpretation of the stars image.

I'm not sure if the video market has helped or hurt, since the image has to double as packaging later. Maybe it could be far worse.

Play this game... take the past few decades - 60's, 70s, 80s, 90s and this decade, and list the movie campaigns (posters) you remember. I remember a few illustrated examples, some minimalist graphic Saul Bass type of images, but little from the photographic realm.

Mad Max Winston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mad Max Winston said...

Some good points are being made here. Just wanted to also throw in what I think is probably one of the worst poster "designs" ever created for a film. It's for Adam Sandler's "Click". Here's a link:

http://imagecache2.allposters.com/
images/MMPO/505047.jpg

NateBear said...

advertisers consider (good) paintings Boroque and confusing to their dumbed-down audiences. They need to reach 40 billion people in 0.35 seconds with a budget of mere $10,000. How do you expect them to churn out quality posters full of detail and pleasing visual when the average audience numbskull has the attention span of a mayfly? If they made the posters so pleasing to the eye that people actually stopped to look then there wouldn't me any microseconds left to read advertisements for the 40 other products in the subway station. The parent company payed for 39 of those other posters and by golly they are gonna push all their products wither they be movies or lint rollers!

he;len xa said...

Hi, I have been reading this blog and found it really interesting because im actually doing this subject for my dissertation. Im personally disappointed with the Superman posters over the years because it seems to have lost its comic book touch (see the 2007,photoshopped Superman Returns poster and compare with the 1983 poster.)
I was wondering whether what anyone thought of the James Bonds movie posters? Would you say the contemporary posters illustrate the genre more than the original handdrawn posters?
I think that the reason why there is less impact on movie posters today is because our role in going to the cinema has changed, the activity itslef is done diffferently compared to the 40s and 50s when cinema was new and obviuosly a big thing. today we just go to the cinema in smaller groups or watch dvds at home so perhaps advertisers are less inclined to spend as much on the posters.

helen said...

Hi i have been reading this forum and found it really interesting because im actually doing this topic for my disseration. Im personally disappointed with the Superman posters over the years because they have lost their comic book touch. Compare the 2006 Superman Returns poster to the 1983 Superman III poster.Superman started as a comic and now it seems its just another photoshopped comodity in the world of film. I was wondering whether what anyone thought of the James Bond movie posters? Do you think the contemporary ones portray the genre of the film more than the original ones because of photoshop techniques?
i think that the impact on movie posters have lessened because the role of going to the cinema has changed over the years.We go to the cinema in smaller groups and for different reasons compared to the 40s and 50s when cinema was a new and big thing. there is more home television today, dvds, downloads so perhaps this is why filmmakers are spending less on posters.

Anonymous said...

This is a facinating page. I am a young film maker myself and it depresses me to see what's become of hand drawn artwork. Drew Struzan {the guy who painted the Star Wars trilogies, The Goonies, Indiana Jones series, Harry Potter, E.T. etc} retired a month ago partly due to the industry refusing to use his work. He hand painted a masterpiece for "Hellboy" and the studio decided to use a cr*ppy photoshop image instead. He also did "Pan's Labyrinth", Harry Potter sequel, The Mist, all of which were rejected.

The thing that I find most interesting is that George Lucas who is so into digital film making/ technology, admired Drews work and asked him to hand paint the Star Wars 1997 re-issues, the new trilogy and Indiana Jones IV, becuase he wasn't happy with what the marketing department had come up with using computers!

I kind of agree with a couple of the other posters on the board who suggest my theory, that it's the "stars" contracts that condtion them to be on the posters and that their images must be a certain size, etc making it a commercial decision. Just like everything it all comes down to money. Whereas someone like George Lucas who has say in everything that happens from beginning to end of his films, will have the final word on how the poster ends up looking. Also worth mentioning, for the final trilogy he had it written into the contracts that the Star Wars films must use the same Drew Struzan artwork in every country of teh world - so they couldn't change it! Respect!! If only there wer more people out there with that power.

Hopefully there will be a revival in poster artwork in the future, as I consider this a fad. There have been a FEW good digital posters in teh past but they have taken over and that is not acceptable. Give the kids of tomorrow something to look back on and associate the joy and wonder that went with the films they loved when they were kids.

And stop changing all the classic artwork for James Bond DVDs with a digital poater of the actor. It sucks!

Jennie said...

Yes, it's definitley a contractual reason that most posters are no longer animated. Look at The Spiderwick Chronicles

http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/pic/MMPO/505936~The-Spiderwick-Chronicles-Posters.jpg

The actors are real but the background is painted.

Again, the same with Eragon

http://www.elfland.com.br/news/images/eragon-poster08.jpg

Very, very sad.