This Is the Dark Ages of Movie Poster Art

All my life I have been obsessed with cinema. Whether it was going to the local theater or down the street to a mom and pop video rental, I was always excited to see a new movie. When I had only $2 in hand to rent one big box, a vhs tape, It was difficult to choose one out of dozens of films I had yet to watch. It was the poster art that had the win me over, dozens of individual art pieces competing with each other for my money. A successful movie poster would be dynamic, powerful, and pull you into the movie through a single piece of hand painted artwork. Fast forward fifteen years and look at our movie posters today. They are sterilized, boring, uninspired, lazy, sometimes anatomically incorrect, photoshop abominations. This ladies and gents…is the dark age of movie posters.

There was one pivotal event that lead to the demise of, what I consider to be, the golden age of movie poster art…the invention of Adobe Photoshop. Now I would be a hypocrite (and quite possibly a communist) If I said I didn’t use the program at all. I use it every single day, it is a powerful and essential tool to my work. Artists were given a new way to paint and manipulate photos to their will in half the time it would take to do it by hand. This gave rise to the new digital age of art. Unfortunately studios saw it as a new way to get posters faster and cheaper.

You get what you pay for FOX

Photoshop is a double edged sword. It is a tool that carves out the tedious tasks and makes it easier to produce quality work in less time, but instead it has made artists lazy and studios less eager to invest in design work they think can easily be done by anyone with enough knowledge of the program (which apparently doesn’t need to be that much).

I mimicked the above poster to make a design of my own to see how long it would take. Three minutes and forty two seconds later I had an exact copy. Are studios really giving three minute deadlines? Keep in mind this is a movie with a reported budget of $120 million yet FOX had no problem releasing posters I could have made in junior high to promote it.

Posters are used to sell the films and should be a major priority since they are the best promotions you have. Hell there was once a time when an artist was paid tens of thousands of dollars to paint a well composed, detailed, and fantastic piece of art work for a film. Sometimes the art would look better than the movie actually was.


But expensive, well painted, art soon submitted to the digital age in the late nighties. Accomplished poster artists like John Alvin or Drew Struzan were put out of a job. When I interviewed Drew Struzan (Who painted the posters for Star Wars, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, and every other iconic movie you love) I asked him how he felt about the rise of the digital age for movie posters, he had this to say:


There’s a lack of the handmade human touch that people enjoy. That motivates, inspires, and transcends the page and becomes a part of people’s lives. That’s what I was trying to do all my life, that’s what I feel I accomplished in many ways. It feels, for the most part, that it is gone.


But the mentality of the people who commission the work and buy it has changed. Now it’s just a money maker instead of an art form. The people that run the show aren’t artists anymore, they’re businessmen. So the computer enabled this new attitude.

Movie posters were more than money makers, they were 24 by 36 inch windows to other worlds. They communicated the entire story, its characters, and the tone of the film in one single glance.


Now and days studios figure if they show you a high profile celebrity that is starring in their film, that’s all you need to want to see it. Don’t get me wrong it’s not like they are so incompetent and unbelievably dense that a celebrity’s face would take up every single inch of the poster, giving us absolutely no information about the movie or what it’s about.


I can only hope we have a return to form someday. That there can be movie posters to love again instead of the cheap and monotonous string of digital monstrosities we see every single day. This is the movie poster dark ages, and for all we know it may never end.



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