Art of the Movie Poster: Illustrated One-Sheets and Design Concepts from the Paul Crifo Archive

This Academy exhibition explored the creative choices that go into the visual elements of a movie marketing campaign. Why was that design chosen? How might the success of a particular film have been affected if an alternate ad campaign had been selected?

“Art of the Movie Poster” explores the decades between the 1950s and ’80s, and showcases the creative process by which a finished movie poster was achieved. Each stage of the process is illustrated, through reference stills, concept sketches, and hand-rendered and photographic “comps” (a design incorporating graphics and text). Also featured are many of the approved original illustrations of “key art.” Multiple poster styles will be displayed alongside the final, “winning” posters, which are from the collections of poster designer Paul Crifo and the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library.

During the decades covered in this exhibition, posters were generally conceived and executed by art school-trained craftsmen working within studio advertising departments or at ad agencies.  Crifo studied illustration at Pratt University; from 1942 through 1986, he worked on more than 400 motion picture advertising campaigns and personally designed 120 film posters for Hollywood studios, foreign distributors and independent film companies, largely while working out of New York City.

Posters and the preliminary design artwork that were showcased include “Paths of Glory,” “Separate Tables,” “The Great Escape,” “Zorba the Greek,” “The Group,” “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying,” “The Producers,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “Play It Again, Sam,” “A Separate Peace” and “Mahogany.”

Exhibition Information

September 17 through December 13, 2009
The Academy’s Grand Lobby Gallery


In the Heat of the Night

Click the image above to see posters featured in the exhibition.

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