Movie Poster Analysis

Introduction

Part of our media form series on the codes and conventions of print media, this guide will take you through important aspects of movie poster design, including definitions of some of the key terms. We are going to consider the different approaches advertising agencies take to the teaser, theatrical release, and review posters. There is also a summary of the technical specifications for those who are really interested in design – it might help you decide on the format for your own products.

Advance Poster

Even before the cameras finish rolling and the editors have spliced together the first cut of the film, movie studios want to generate great excitement around their next big blockbuster. Like the name suggests, advance posters are issued to cinemas and other outlets to create a “buzz” in advance of an actual release date. Therefore, teaser posters will have “Coming Soon” instead of a specific date. Advertisers use something like “In Theatres This Summer” for American cinemagoers.

The artwork will depend on the promotional schedule and the marketing budget. For example, if production has just begun, the advance poster might only contain a simple logo with no other information. “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) is probably the best example of this type of advertisement.

You might then see posters with images of the main characters. These are known as character advances and you can expect to see the protagonist staring at something in the distance. Again, Black Widow from “Avengers: Endgame” is a good example.

Avengers Endgame poster
Advance Film Poster – Avengers Endgame
Avengers character poster - Black Widow
Advance Character Poster – Avengers Endgame

Theatrical Release Poster

The theatrical release poster is considered the “official” and “original” promotional material because it has to conform to certain industry standards and regulations. For example, this one sheet as it is known, will contain a billing block which identifies the names of important cast and crew members, such as the director and casting agent. The names are incredibly small because the studio has to squeeze so many people into the tight space to meet their contractual obligations. If you are making your own movie poster, make sure you use a condensed typeface for the credits.

The studio and other agencies will have their own logos here as well.

Of course, you will notice the name of the main actors, director or producer emblazoned on the poster in their top billing. There might also be a tagline under film’s title. The artwork will certainly be more detailed than the advance poster

Award Poster

If a film has been nominated for or won an industry award, such as an Oscar or BAFTA, the studios might issue new promotional material to include these accolades. The advertisers are also quick to add five-star reviews from well-known critics. This particular style would have less artwork to leave more room for comments and awards.

It is important to note that many independent and art-house films are shown in festivals around the world before they go on general release. Therefore, their “original” poster might include a reference to their success at, for example, the Cannes Film Festival.

Styles

Studios normally release more than one version of the posters in an attempt to appeal to different audiences. For example, one poster might emphasise codes from the action genre while another could appeal to the film’s romantic plot. These styles are labelled A, B, C and even D.

If you want to know more about how your own demographic or psychographic is defined, check out the way television shows and films are presented differently according to the user profile in Netflix or Amazon Prime. These companies try to tailor the advertisement to appeal to each individual viewer.

Technical Specifications

In the UK, the standard size of a movie poster is 40″ x 30″ and this landscape format is known as the quadruple crown, or simply quad. If you are looking at a portrait poster, take out a measuring tape and you will probably find it is 41″ x 27”. This format is called the one sheet.

If you are making a film poster for your media studies coursework, you should follow these dimensions to demonstrate you understand the conventions in the UK.

In America, the one sheet is the same size as its UK counterpart, and it is the most common poster displayed in cinemas. Other sizes exist around the world and the posters are always being adapted to suit new locations rather than the traditional billboards and Tube stations. Also, many posters now are double-sided so they can be viewed by audiences passing in either direction.

Further Reading

Thanks for reading!