History and future of movie posters


Movie poster have been used since the earliest public exhibitions of film, at the end of the 19th century. Here is the very first movie poster in the world, for the Cinématographe Lumière / l'Arroseur Arrosé (1896). Please note that its size was 120x160cm, which is still the french standard size for theatre-used movie posters!


For many years, it was the main promotional tool for a movie, in which studios invested large amounts of money, calling upon the best artists to distinguish their movie from competitors.

Illustration was far more common than photos, prior to the 1990s. Photomontage was introduced in movie posters from late 1950s, because it was cheaper ; but it also allows less artistic originality (even if some photomontages are really beautiful).   

Two examples below : the first is a photomontage, the second an illustration by Jean Mascii.

poster psychoposter kiss me


Meanwhile, printing methods become more and more industrialized : after silkscreen follows lithography, and then color-offset printing, with color quality loss and wider print run. 


Trailers, radio, TV and internet has also widely contributed to movie posters depreciation as a promotional tool. Indeed, why investing in a beautiful poster when you can be on TV news ?


Moreover, advertisers have more and more put aside artistic consideration, to concentrate on well-known marketing techniques aiming to fill movie theatres, like a close-up of the movie star, with a sharp look and heroic posture, a background color depending on movie genre (white for comedy, black for thriller..), going as far as pretesting the visuals on a representative public sample...

Therefore, visual standardization has become a major tendancy in contemporary movie posters. But because sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a great poster setting from the blog of Christophe Courtois 

Eye setting


All this explains the general tendency to visual standardization, and the collectors taste for the originality of elder movie posters. It also explains why we mostly propose elder documents in our catalogue, with some exceptions, like these beautifulmovie posters of Enter the Void (2010), Inherent Vice (2015), Love and Mercy (2015) or of L'Etrange Couleur des Larmes de ton Corps (2013). There are still some great movie poster artists working today (Drew Struzan who works on Star Wars, Laurent Lufroy, Jean-Claude Floc'h, Gilles Vranx...).


Apart from the visual standardization, movie documents (including movie posters) are exposed to growing digitalization of promotional tools, of which famous producer George Lucas is a fervent supporter. Indeed, all movies being already digitalized, why won't it be the same for their promotional tools ? Besides, numerous press kits are already sent on digital medium. And it is foreseen that in a near future, movie posters will not be displayed in movie theatres,  but screen shown.


To conclude,  it seems that we are witnessing the slow extinction of "paper" movie posters, and of paper documents in general. Fortunately, the movie poster market is still in great shape, thanks to collectors more numerous and willing to preserve this unique historical heritage. 


We hope that this page was usefull,

Best Regards

Mauvais Genres.