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Taxi DriverMovie trends come and go like any other industry.  Westerns are popular for a few years, then sci-fi, then fantasy.  Right now we’re up to our necks in vampires.  Movie posters, known in Hollywood as “one-sheets,” experience their own trends.

For a while it was the Stars-Standing-Back-To-Back model (Mr. & Mrs Smith, Two Weeks Notice, Pretty Woman).  That was replaced by the Giant Eye syndrome — every horror poster must feature a giant eye! (Seed of Chucky, Godzilla, The Eye {should’ve seen that one coming}).  Now we’re in an era of poster marketing led by what I like to call the You-Walking-To-Me fad.

If you think the fellowship walked a lot in The Lord of the Rings, then you haven’t studied multiplex décor of late.  Luckily for you, I have.  Here’s the insight I’ve walked away with.

Pop quiz: What do Fast & Furious 5 and The Muppets have in common (other than wanton destruction)?  Answer: Their one-sheets showcase Vin Diesel and Fozzie Bear striding defiantly toward camera.  Oblivion does this too, as does John Carter, Ocean’s Eleven, and at least two out of six X-Men adventures.  Will Smith epitomizes the craze with I Robot, I Am Legend, and Bad Boys 2.

5 walk posters

Next time you’re at your local theater, check out the poster art and you’ll see more walkers than in your average episode of The Walking Dead.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I like stretching my legs as much as anyone.  But this slow-paced marathon ultimately begs the question — WHERE ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE WALKING TO?!?!

When did walking become so hip that everyone must hop on the bandwagon?  Are they walking to a bandwagon?  Perhaps an elephant graveyard.  Where’s Benedict Cumberbatch off to in the Star Trek Into Darkness one-sheet?  Oh right… he’s trekking.  Into darkness.  Got it.

Transporters are for wimps.

Transporters are for wimps.

But aside from him, we have no idea where everyone else is going!  Maybe Sam Jackson’s march in the Shaft one-sheet is left over from his Jules character in Pulp Fiction.

JULES: “I’ll just walk the earth.”

VINCENT: “What’cha you mean walk the earth?”

JULES: “You know, walk the earth, meet people… get into adventures.  Like Caine from Kung Fu.”

You’re probably asking yourself, “Self, where did this trend originate from?”  Industry experts have debated this topic for years.  Despite being unable to pinpoint the premiere example, Beyond the Marquee’s finest marquee’ologists have uncovered sporadic use throughout the decades — Singin’ in the Rain in the ‘50s, the original Ocean’s 11 in the ‘60s — but nothing like the epidemic currently plaguing the Key Art Awards.

Perhaps the modern cliché grew out of Jerry Bruckheimer’s signature shot that appears throughout his filmography.  From Armageddon and Con-Air to Pirates of the Caribbean and G-Force, you know the shot — cool characters walking side by side toward camera in slow-motion, oftentimes with an explosion behind them because, as we all know, “Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions.”

For the sake of moving on, let’s pin the origins of the modern walking poster on Bruckheimer.  But he’s only one producer.  One powerful producer who works mainly with one powerful studio — Disney — but one producer nonetheless.  So where does the copycat art stem from in regards to other studios?  This line of questioning can only lead to one answer: MENSTRUAL CYCLES.

You know how when women spend lots of time together their periods align?  Same thing happens to creative folks.  I occasionally work in the creative print marketing department of a major studio and I’ve witnessed this effect first hand.  The inhouse designers brainstorm concepts individually but, through proximity and right-brain alignment, nine out of ten results are just variations on the same theme.  Rarely does a whole new concept emerge.

walk posters 2

To rectify this, outside design companies are hired for fresh takes on the subject.  When their art rolls in, the same phenomenon happens — menstrual cycle-aligned variants of a single theme.  But at least it’s a different theme than what the inhouse artists concocted.

Once concepts are finalized, photo shoots are coordinated with the actors, typically while the film is in production, which adds another variable to the mix — the Hollywood photographer.  What if art directors aren’t responsible for the goose-stepping mania?  What if the culprits are shutterbugs?  I’ve never been privy to a one-sheet photo shoot, but I’d be shocked if they didn’t run exactly like this:

MOVIE STAR: “So which of these concepts are we doing?”

PHOTOGRAPHER: “None of ‘em.  All I want you to do is walk.”

MOVIE STAR: “Toward what?”

PHOTOGRAPHER: “Toward camera.”


PHOTOGRAPHER: “Doesn’t matter why.”

MOVIE STAR: “But if I walk toward camera, I’ll bump into it.”

PHOTOGRAPHER: “I’ll get you a treadmill.”

MOVIE STAR: “OK, but I don’t want to stare at the camera.  No breaking the fourth wall.”

PHOTOGRAPHER: “Just channel your inner Ferris Bueller and do it!”


Walk this way.

No. Walk THIS way.
No. Walk THIS way.

All trends must come to an end.  How much longer will You-Walking-to-Me be around?  Possibly not much since it’s already entered its next phase… You-Walking-to-Me-Through-Burning-Embers.

Art directors must have sensed filmgoers becoming fatigued by regular walking and, desperately wanting to keep the fad going, devised a logical solution — Spice it up with smoking ash, the sheer volume of which would make Mount Vesuvius jealous.  Check out the marketing for White House Down…  embers.  For The Lone Ranger…  embers.  City of Ember… well, you know.

Where are all these fiery cinders coming from and why aren’t they setting the actors’ costumes ablaze?!  Unless it’s a firefighter epic or a rerelease of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, I say we take an extinguisher to this sub-fad.

Movie poster trends are cyclical like the movies themselves.  One year’s Hero-Framed-Through-Sexy-Legs fashion (Kingpin, Goldmember) is another year’s Disembodied-Heads-In-Beach-Clouds craze (The Last Song, Life of Pi).  Personally I can’t wait for when Here’s-Where-All-The-Walkers-Walked-To comes into vogue.  They have to reach their destination eventually, right?  Right.


COMING SOON: What’s your threshold?







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