Seems there’s a bit of commentary going on over the sorry state of movie posters. The main complaints (and they’re justified) is that they are boring, uninspired and often focus solely on the celebrity-of-the-moment that happens to be in the movie.

I have to admit that they do have a point. Truly original and creative posters are becoming fewer and farther between. Some of my recent favorites include those for Pretty Persuasion, the subject of an MMM column here, Everything is Illuminated, Lord of War and Serenity. The poster for Good Night and Good Luck is also growing on me. Other than that I’m not seeing a whole of work being put into this aspect of a movie’s marketing efforts.

Let’s examine what the point of the one-sheet is in today’s market. They are primarily – almost exclusively – going to be displayed in theaters and are designed to grab someone’s attention. Considering the movies the vast majority of people are going to see (or in the case of this summer, not going to see) they should objectively contain a high celebrity quotient and be something that is easily digestable while waiting for the other members of your party to go to the bathroom or order popcorn. Heavy reading should not be involved. The overall goal is to make the person remember later about “that new ______ movie.” There’s exactly one shot the poster gets to attract attention and if it doesn’t do that it’s a failure.

The poster has a different set of goals than the trailer does. The trailer has two to four minutes in which to lay out as many of the characters and as much of the story as it possibly can. There’s simply no getting around the fact that more time, being able to show footage from the film and put it all into some sort of cohesive form is a fantastic opportunity. I’m not saying the trailer is always successful at meeting these goals but at least the potential is there.

So unfortunately these boring design-less posters will likely continue. They achieve their goals and nobody is questioning them yet. I’d love to see a world where more posters (and movies for that matter) like the one for Sideways, Lord of War and the like are the norm. The fact is though that these are complex movies and posters and require more of the viewer than just a sideways glance. They require you to get up close and personal with them, to feel the vibes coming from them and examine them further. Only then can you get the deepness and emotion that are part of their design.