Entertainment marketing often involves dizzying amounts of money, but lately, even movie posters are getting vertigo. A rash of “tilting horizon” movie posters have been appearing in movie theater lobbies starting, it seems, with X-Men: First Class a year ago, but it was soon followed by similarly slanted posters for Happy Feet 2, The Hobbit, Hugo, and the upcoming American Reunion and Chronicle. Stare at them long enough and you begin to feel a bit disoriented, too.
Key art, of course, moves in cycles. Witness the “distressed type” fad of a few years ago, which has given rise to the current obsession with Futura font. The idea behind the tilting trend is that it forces our brains to engage with the poster’s image and mentally correct it: Just as we can’t help ourselves from adjusting a picture frame that’s hanging askew, you’ve mentally engaged with and corrected the poster before you even realized you’ve been paying attention to it.
But soon, inevitably, the tilt will be gone as marketing departments move on to another trick, because these days, marketing trends move fast. Just look at how fast trailer styles have changed. Says one maker of promotional materials: “The visual language of trailers moves faster than the visual language of films. You can watch a movie from ten years ago, and it still feels fresh. But if you see a trailer from ten years ago, it feels totally antiquated. It feels…tired. Trailers have to keep moving in order to get noticed.” And same goes with posters now, even though it’s a trickier thing to evolve static images. Says one former head of a studio marketing department, “There’s only so much you can do with a poster to make it come alive, and, well, now they’re doing it.”