On Monday night, I arrived at what turned out to be incredibly early for a screening of The Walk. After about an hour of sitting in a corner and staring at my phone, I finally made my way into a seat at the front of the theater, where I was greeted with an IMAX-size projection of the movie's poster. With no one to talk to, and my phone's battery rapidly depleting, I began gazing at this image like a lifeline. I was not just a lonely man conspicuously underdressed for an event also attended by Robert Zemeckis and Daniel Libeskind; I was a lonely man who was also very interested in New York City geography, and for some reason, I found it very hard to get my bearings. Take a look for yourself:
Which way is north? Ordinarily, the Hudson River would be an easy guide — the World Trade Center site is only a few blocks away — except, for some reason, there's no river in the poster. No West Side Highway either. If you look closely, you can see a church right by the base of the towers, but it doesn't really look like St. Paul's Chapel or Trinity Church. Hey, look, next to that church is a familiar building: the New York Palace Hotel, instantly recognizable to any viewer of Gossip Girl. But that's on Madison Avenue, making the church St. Patrick's Cathedral. And doesn't the street grid itself seem very midtown to you, with none of the Financial District's narrow, twisting lanes? And wow, now that you mention it, isn't that 30 Rock, right by the towers' base?
Yes, that's right: As others noticed before us, the World Trade Center on this poster is not at its rightful location downtown, nor is it in some sort of archetypal "New York streetscape." Instead, it's been digitally inserted at a very real intersection — 50th Street and Fifth Avenue, four miles from the actual World Trade Center site.
How did this happen? It's probably not ignorance. As you can see from The Walk's press stills, the World Trade Center is in the correct location in the film itself. The Hudson River, the West Side Highway, even New Jersey — in the movie, it's all where it should be.
So what's going on with the poster? Was there some graphic-design reason that the towers' real location was unsuitable? We couldn't for the life of us figure out what that would be, so we reached out to Sony Pictures for an explanation. Their comment: "The movie is a love letter to the Twin Towers and to New York City in all of its brilliance. This early teaser image represents an artistic composition, as all posters do." There you go!