'Saving Private Ryan' and the Best (and worst) movie posters
This summer, the major studios are reportedly spending as much as $50 million a pop to promote their big flicks in the U.S.—more than double the average 1997 per-film marketing tab of $19.2 million, which itself is a 67 percent increase compared with five years ago. Most of the bucks go for TV ads, websites, and slogans on buses and buildings (our dream update: “HIS GROSSES ARE AS BIG AS THIS TACO STAND”). But in a hype chain that grows more formidable each year, one modest link still binds audiences to the moviegoing experience more effectively than any other: the movie poster. Typically, these single-image, sound-free enticements cost between $50,000 and $250,000 to design, yet the goodwill they can bring to a hit can literally be worth millions.
What makes a great poster? “Silhouette value,” according to veteran designer Brian Fox, whose Santa Monica agency B.D. Fox & Friends came up with the bike-across-the-moon image for E.T. and the stark Batman logo. ”Something that piques your interest without telling you too much. You have to be able to get it rushing through a theater lobby or motoring past a billboard.”
Here, then, is our drive-by assessment of some of the season’s most ubiquitous iconography.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Fierman)
Can’t Hardly Wait B-
Hmm, where have we seen this before? Smells like a teen-spirit retread of the Trainspotting poster, right down to the music-video poses, bright colors, and overlapping-photo motif. It’s reasonably smart, since the thinner-than-Kate-Moss addict look invoked by association lends a dose of dangerous-cool chic to the well-scrubbed Jennifer Love Hewitt and her Gen-X cohorts. Another plus: The trendy, bold yellow-lettered opening date lends the poster a datebook feel (the better to prime that all-important first-weekend gross).
Six Days, Seven Nights B-
The Negotiator A-
It’s the oldest trope in the book: When your flick is about characters who can’t stand each other, stand them beside each other in full-figure shots. But while Six Days‘ classically (read: timidly) star-powered design undersells both the film’s romance and its island-castaway plot (and adds a jaundiced tint that hardly flatters Ford and Heche), The Negotiator scores with a graphically ingenious red-tinted background, and a distinctive typeface for the title that literally plays go-between—a neat encapsulation of what the movie’s about.
Should a kiddie-friendly movie court moppets first and foremost, or dress itself up as more adult fare? Disney is taking the latter tack, targeting grown-ups with a highly stylized Mulan poster that aims to do for its cartoon features what director Julie Taymor did for The Lion King on Broadway: add the stamp of art to an enterprise that’s really all about selling stuffed animals and expensive T-shirts. Meantime, TriStar’s more juvenile nun-on-a-speed-bike campaign for Madeline will likely hit two speed bumps: Little boys and twentysomething males wouldn’t touch this.