A History of the Cinema Poster

Ever wondered how the first cinema poster was created? Join us as we explore the history of the cinema poster in our latest FMS Blog article!

If you’ve taken a trip to your local cinema lately, you’ll no doubt have been drawn to various posters for upcoming films displayed on the walls and in some of the hallways.

Often bright, colourful and eye-catching, the cinema poster was created with one sole purpose in mind – to advertise upcoming film releases and to excite whoever is viewing it.

Some cinema posters have become iconic in their own right, whether it’s due to a famous quote included on it or if it features a particularly striking design.

As a result, the history of cinema poster design is a fascinating one!

Read on for a timeline of the history of the cinema poster.

A History of the Cinema Poster

The Origination of the Cinema Poster

History indicates that the first concept of a cinema poster was established in the year 1870.

It is said that a Paris artist and lithographer, named Jules Cheret, was the first to help create a printing technique which produced intense colour variations and richer textures than were previously possible.

But it wasn’t until 1890 that the first cinema poster would be created for public viewing.

The poster was used to advertise and promote a short film called ‘Projections Artistiques’, with the design simple in nature and featuring a young girl who herself is holding a poster which includes the times of the film showing.

When looking back at the first cinema poster to be created for an individual film however, this was developed in 1895 for a film named ‘L’Arroseur Arrosé’ (translating to Tables Turned on the Gardner and The Sprinkler Sprinkled).

The film itself was a short in length black and white silent production, with the poster design showing an audience laughing in the foreground as the film is being projected in the background within an illustration of a cinema screen.

This cinema poster was also unique in regard to it being the first of its kind to feature a scene taken directly from the film it was promoting.

1920s – 1940s

After this point, the history of the cinema poster took on a much more transformational journey than many expected.

Noticing what had been achieved in the years before, the design of the cinema poster was further adapted in the 1920s, with most designs now taking inspiration from ‘L’Arroseur Arrosé’ and using hand drawn illustrations of scenes taken from the films they were promoting.

It wasn’t until the 1930s were real progression could be seen in the way cinema poster design was approached.

The ‘art deco’ era brought with it some new ideas of expression and artistic flair, which resulted in much of the graphical art favouring the inclusion of geometric shapes and bolder colours.

In an unusual step, these years also saw poster designers opting to remove detailed backgrounds, and instead, utilising blank backgrounds instead.

Due to The Great Depression and World War Two, a more subdued approach was taken with cinema poster designs during the 1940s.

Lowered advertising budgets and the invention of television meant that not as many films were being created as previous, with the design of graphics being directly affected.

More subtle typography and the removal of depicted scenes from films within the poster design were a few of the noticeable changes made during this period.

1950s – 1970s

The next three decades were some of the most important when it comes to the history of the cinema poster.

Soldiers returning from the war efforts had the first impact in the 1950s, as the subjects that films were based on took a dramatic shift.

Gone were films based on war and conflict – instead, preference switched to new genres such as fantasy, comedy and science fiction.

Because of this, the ideas behind cinema posters also took on a fresh new approach, with new designs being drawn up which placed emphasis on much of the typography and the inclusion of visual clues hinting at a film’s plotlines, rather than full illustrations of scenes from the film.

The 1960s was another decade of note, due in part to interest rising in ‘teen idols’ and ‘beach movies’.

This was also a decade which saw the rise of the action genre and lapsed censorship guidelines allowed movie makers to create more adult-orientated productions, something which also transferred over to cinema poster design too.

The most noticeable film to drive this idea forward was the 1964 release in the James Bond series, ‘Dr No’.

By the time the world of cinema was heading into the 1970s, the idea of painting illustrations for the design of cinema posters was all but a distant memory.

Instead, cinema posters were now more likely to use photographs instead, which also sparked a new trend of fans being eager to collect cinema posters, stemming from the buzz which surrounded the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises.

Photographs then became a huge part of the cinema poster design heading towards the 1980s, with them taking up a much larger majority of the canvas space than previously seen.

1980s – Present Day

If the 1980s can be remembered for anything when it comes to the history of the cinema poster, it can certainly be associated with the word, ‘balance’.

The development in the cinema world of new, revolutionary special effects meant that cinema poster designers were forced to up their game when advertising the latest new releases.

It led to more balanced design ideas overall, with large photographic backgrounds starting to become commonplace, with typography and other imagery equally being featured without being overpowering.

The importance of cinema poster designs attracting the attention of potential movie goers was now growing, as this was also the decade which saw them introduced into retail video shops for the very first time.

Further advancement of special effects, mainly computerized ones, was a huge part of cinema when it came to the 1990s.

Now, a loose template was adhered to when it came to cinema poster design layouts, with photographic backgrounds, slogans and the names of starring actors in films all becoming vital components.

From this point, cinema posters in the present day have taken on more varying forms, with designers and artists encouraged to unleash their creativity in order to make designs more enticing and intriguing than ever.

Cinema posters for films such as ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Up’ helped to influence the idea of minimalism, a particularly effective technique in helping to draw the curiosity of those who walk in view of them.

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History of the Cinema Poster Sasco Wall Planners Cinema E-Ticket Offer

If our look at the history of the cinema poster has got you itching to get down to your local cinema to enjoy any of the exciting new releases out this year or at the start of the next, then Sasco’s latest offer on their Wall Planners range is something to take note of!

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Sam Rose