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Classic Cinema Marketing

Book Review: Selling the Movie – The Art of the Film Poster

Selling The Movie - Book Cover

Publisher: University of Texas Press

Release Date: October 2018

“As long as there have been movies, there have been posters selling films to audiences. Posters came into existence just decades before the inception of film, and as movies became a universal medium of entertainment, posters likewise became a ubiquitous form of advertising. At first, movie posters suggested a film’s theme, from adventure and romance to thrills and spine-tingling horror. Then, with the ascendancy of the film star, posters began to sell icons and lifestyles, nowhere more so than in Hollywood. But every country producing films used posters to sell their product.” -Ian Haydn Smith (Selling the Movie: The Art of the Film Poster, 2018)

The subject of the history and art of the film poster needs more study, so Ian Haydn Smith’s book on the subject is quite welcome. It may best be described as a fully illustrated coffee table book that covers both the history of the cinema and the evolution of poster art in general terms. Certain artists are given a more detailed study than others, but the book casts such a wide net that the text is only able to touch the surface of its subject. Luckily, it has so many beautiful posters throughout the book that it is quite difficult to be bothered by this particular weakness. This isn’t to imply that the book is lacking in information as it covers quite a bit of territory in general terms:

Selling the Movie: The Art of the Film Poster charts the history of the movie poster from both a creative and a commercial perspective. It includes sections focusing on poster artists, the development of styles, the influence of politics and ideology, and how commerce played a role in the film poster’s development. The book is richly illustrated with poster art from many countries and all eras of filmmaking.

From creating the brand of Charlie Chaplin’s tramp and marketing the elusive mystique of Greta Garbo, to the history of the blockbuster, the changing nature of graphic design by the decade, and the role of the poster in the digital age, Selling the Movie is an entertaining and enthralling journey through cinema, art, and the business of attracting audiences to the box office.” –University of Texas Press (Marketing Information)

If the subject is of any interest at all to those reading this, we can happily recommend adding it to your collection. It’s a beautifully designed book that should really appeal to most cinephiles.

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