Perhaps it is an outgrowth of the “fan culture” that leads devotees to a particular director or film to create their own stories or even fan films based on the world of a film. Perhaps it is the availability and ease of use of graphic design and illustration programs. Perhaps it is simply the internet which has brought together people of a similar mindset… whatever the cause alternative movie posters are on the rise.
Most movies spend quite a bit on PR and publicity, sometimes as much as a third of the cost of the film again just to advertise. Posters were once just used at the theater to advertise coming attractions or current features and then junked at the end of the run. Later posters were decorations for teen’s bedrooms. Now some posters even rise to the level of art. And where they do not–or the inclination is such–artists out there in cyberspace have take to creating their own movie posters in homage to their favorite films.
Movie poster design traditionally has incorporated several features. First is, obviously, the title prominently displayed. Otherwise the audience will not know what movie is being advertized. Second, a single dominant image. Often this is a still from the film or, as is the case in many older films, a painted composite image of the actors. Third, any major stars who appear in the film will have their names listed prominently on the poster. Below is a German print of a classic poster for the 1933 film King Kong.
Take the poster to the right for example. It is for Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. It has all the requisite elements for a movie poster: the title, the dominant picture, a listing of the stars and the prominent title. Now compare it with the Hamlet poster on the left.
It has clearly minimized the names of the stars and eschewed the use of a still from the production. Yet it retains a strong visual. The skull of Yorick, the king’s jester, which Hamlet muses over late in the play/movie. The teeth are replaced with Hamlet’s name. He speaks often of death and the play/movie is a tragedy, so the overall dark theme is very suitable. The alternative poster is available here with many others by the same artist.
Here is another comparison between one of the original posters and two alternative posters created by fans.
Here the poster has the requisite elements. The dominant image, while almost wholly unrelated to the film, does convey mystery and a sense of the alien. The title is clear and easily read. There is the addition of a tagline, “The ultimate in alien terror,” which further serves to give the audience a notion of the genre of the film. The only actor mentioned is Kurt Russell, who this early in his career was not a major star yet, so his name is not highlighted. Rather that of the director is placed above the title.
Now the fan made posters below we see two different approaches to the same film. The artist on the left focused more on the alien and the shocking way in which it can hide in plain sight. This particular scene the artist depicts does parallel a moment from the movie. However, it has the distinct possibility of acting as a spoiler to someone who has not seen the film. To a fan this is not a consideration when creating a poster, but for the PR denizens it is one of many factors to consider. The second poster on the right below is designed in more of a minimalist style. At the top(in smallish lettering) is a new tagline “Man is the warmest place to hide.” The artist has focused on the setting instead.
The minimalist movie poster trend is particularly interesting to fans of classic or cult films. It gives us a chance to get a poster we would be happy to display in our homes. Often the original poster designs for old films lacked a certain visual pop or feel very dated. While some prefer the classic/original poster designs, I am in the camp which likes something different or new to catch the eye.
Check out a bunch of minimalist movie posters here.