Meet Dave

Twentieth Century Fox

Movie posters seem to be stuck in two formats lately: the Romantic Comedy, where one character is looking away and the other gazing sweetly, or the Comedy, which calls for an exaggerated photo with a big block red typeface. WHAT'S THE DEAL?
—Catherine

Imagine the following answer delivered in a delightful font, maybe in Carrie Bradshaw pink with eye-catching drop shadows and a tiny version of myself jumping over the dot in every "I": Isn't it irresistible? Don't you want to go out and buy The Following Answer DVD? And The Following Answer action figures and bobblehead dolls?

No? WHAT IF I ASK YOU IN ALL CAPS? All right, fine. The secrets of movie marketing, after the jump...

Whatever you happen to think of those tired poster formulas—Look, it's the Dark Knight! And he's looking up at the cruel heavens! Again!—don't blame the designers.

"The reason you often see formulaic movie posters usually has more to do with marketing imperatives than lazy poster design," says Nathan Corwin, an artist who goes by Scarabin and who recently designed the headily surreal one sheet for the film The Fall.

"Millions of dollars are at stake for the movie studio," he says. "At the end of the day the goal is to get butts in seats, and those common poster formulas are great at that. They simply work."

As for the red block letters, designers have been het up over those chunky sore thumbs for months now. Some hate them, others understand the need.

"Humans react to red," Corwin explains. "It just looks really good on white, which is the background color most often used for comedy films.

"If you saw a poster with a green title on a black background you would probably think it was a sci-fi or monster movie."

Finding Amanda

Magnolia Pictures

You mean Meet Dave isn't a monster movie? Where was I? Oh yes. Posters.

You asked about rom-com formulae, with at least one character starting off into space. The idea is to get audiences wondering what the protagonists are thinking. Will she? Won't she? Might she? Or, in the event of a BBC production, shan't she perhaps deign to?

"It raises a question in the viewer's mind, and subconsciously they know that the only way to answer it is to go see the movie," Corwin says.

Or just hold out for a movie with a really cute font.

Got a question about Hollywood? ASK IT!

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