Hollywood, You're Busted

Oh myyy, I hadn’t realised the Beano comic was 75 years old. It was while walking through London’s St. Pancras station when I was told that there was supposed to be an exhibition to promote the Beano annual for 2015. I had a train to catch so didn’t explore it anymore, although I would have loved too. I grew up on the Beano, and I actually purchased a copy last year to read on the way home. I got some strange looks from other passengers on the train. Ahh, bless him, he's learning to read.

 

Comics in general seem to have dumbed down. They’re filled with leaflets to phone a number that costs £1.50 per minute to win a prize valued at £1.00, oh, and you need to pay £1.99 postage and packing. What a genius idea, wish I had thought of this. Some comics however, remain just as I remembered them, in fact a few of the Marvel comics seem to be much better if it were not for all of the adverts. What we need are editions from the past. I still remember a few of the stories from the 1970s with a heart full of fondness.

 

That brings me nicely to what I want to write about today. Retro posters. I have been scouring the net for inspiration because I want to re-create some of the old posters and give them a modern twist. I looked at a few from the 1970s and I have to say I am impressed with them especially knowing Photoshop wasn’t available. The artists had talent, the posters were vibrant, especially the original Star Wars poster. I also love the original JAWS film poster.

Today’s posters by comparison just do not seem as well thought out, and they all seem to be photoshopped to the extreme. They all also seem to feature two colours, orange and blue.

According to my research, very unscientific, involved a lot of Googling, the reason behind this isn’t clear cut. A few sites pointed out that blue is cool, orange is enthusiastic, and other sites seem to suggest that in Hollywood, it’s simply a case of I want what she’s having. What I hadn’t realised was how much money studios drop on poster creation, $100,000 is typical.

 

The colour combo is clearly a marketing hit, and once you start noticing them, you will see them everywhere. I certainly have, to the point that I am starting to think they’re all the same! Could the Hollywood based design houses be sharing a template?

 

I think part of the reason that Blue and Orange are also used is that these two colours do not conjure cultural associations such as red and green, or pink and blue. Blue and orange sit at the opposite ends of the colour wheel.

 

The other thing I noticed is that if there is a comedy film released, blue and orange are rarely used. For comedy the choices are usually based on a white background. What I hadn’t realised until I started looking through all of the most recent films, and by recent I am talking from the release date of Pretty Woman, is that the posters all look broadly similar. Oh, and all of the actors are leaning back to back.

 

Pretty Woman, check. Back to back, white background. Tout Ce Qui Brille, check, white background, actors are back to back. As are, Four Christmases, Game Plan, How to lose a Guy in 10 Days, and Run, Fatboy, Run. All of these posters could have been created by the same artist, change the faces and the position of the film’s title, all could be advertising the same film!

 

I also noticed that some film theorists have been speculating that 9/11 and the economic downturn have led the public to crave grittier stories, since a sugar coated world no longer seems to exist. If we then compare the 90’s era Batman and Bond films to their present day incarnations, you will notice that in the 90’s the posters were full of camp and comic book style art, now the posters are significantly more gritty.

 

There's something else I noticed when I took a look at some older film posters. I noticed that the characters today all seem to be intense or depressed. Rarely do I see a film poster that shows the lead character wearing a smile, unless it’s a RomCom, in which case their smiles are clearly fake.

 

Of course when it comes to independent movies there is yet another difference, and yet another template colour scheme. The background is nearly always yellow. Garden State, Bettie Page, Joe Dirt, Kill Bill, all yellow. All following that broadly similar template.

 

To me it seems a safe way to ensure the $30m+ spent on creating the film isn’t let down by a badly produced poster, but please come on guys, dare to be different. The action films released today might follow a similar format. Guy meets girl, girl gets whisked away by evil villain, guy saves girl, guy saves the world as a plot twist, but surely at least the posters could be a bit different. I can't even remember going to the cinema recently where I felt the film was actually something new. I've seen them all before, and it seems I've seen all of the posters too.

 

When I compare them to old film posters and by old I mean up to around 1978, colour was used with imagination. If you asked me to describe any modern film poster I really couldn't. Ask me to Describe the original Star Wars or Jaws poster and I can tell you immediately what the colour composition was, where each character was positioned, although that's not too difficult with JAWS, the shark had an open mouth, slap bang in the middle, directly under the JAWS title. I haven't even seen the movies for years but I remember the aqua blues, and greys and the red title.

 

I wrote a few weeks ago that blue is the most popular colour used in art, it seems that this is carrying forward into film advertising as well. There's probably some deeply rooted psycho babble that proves people are more susceptible to receiving a positive message if it's on a blue background.

 

The cost of the poster design probably includes a significant fee for the services of some psychologist team who's role is to carry out research on the colours blue and orange for the movie industry. But you know, I can tell you for free that the games up. Now we're all going to notice blue and orange, and we'll all now start thinking the posters are advertising the same film. Just as any print on demand artist knows, you need to experiment with styles and colour.

 

Maybe it's time Hollywood started to engage with the hundreds of thousands of truly talented artists who try to make a pittance on print on demand services. One things for sure, the posters would start to become far more interesting, and they may make me just want to go and see the film.

 

Next time you go into the multiplex, take a minute to count the number of posters that look similar, or feature blue and orange, have back to back characters, or have a yellow background.

 

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