Why Don’t Movie Poster Names EVER Line Up?!

Why Don’t Movie Poster Names EVER Line Up?!


Hey, quick question: Does this ever bother you? Because it bothers me. I’m talking about the fact that no actor or actresses’ name ever seems to line up correctly on a movie poster. W-why? Why do they do that? Would it really have been too out of the question to just flip these two names and have them match up correctly? Or swap the actors around, or never shoot this thing to begin with? I mean, look at this! Look at this! I could go on for days- watch! Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom! “Doesn’t anyone notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” Why is this happening and why isn’t anyone doing something about it? Is there just one deranged poster artist out there that keeps getting hired by all these major studios? Is it an inside joke? Nope. Turns out it has to do with the one thing it always has to do with: “Cash. Money” It’s called Billing and I’m about to break it down for you lickety-split. *music* Now to be fair, it didn’t always used to be this way. In the earliest motion pictures of the 1900’s, back when movies used to be, like, five minutes long and look like this: Movie studio moguls refused to bill the actors appearing in their films because they wanted to avoid recreating the star system that was prevalent on Broadway at the time. But pretty soon Charlie Chaplin happened, and the situation took a 180. So here’s the skinny: The actors whose names appear first on a movie poster are said to have ‘Top Billing’. In other words, they’re usually paid the most, or are the most recognizable name to use in advertising material. Top billed names are either placed at the very top or the furthest left so they’re hypothetically the first name that you read when you look at a movie poster. For an Actor to get Top Billing they’ve got to be well established and have a certain amount of Box Office drawing power. The lower you are in that respect, the lower or further right your name will likely appear on the poster. Lots of big-name talent will have it specifically written into their contract that they get Top Billing, no matter what. You want a good example? Check out 1978’s ‘Superman’. Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman both got Top Billing above Christopher Reeve, despite the fact that, y’know, Reeve was Superman. That didn’t matter. At the time, he was an unknown, and Brando and Hackman were living Hollywood legends. Oh yeah, side note: Give it up for Marlon Brando’s agent. Dude’s only in ‘Apocalypse Now’ for 15 minutes, but he gets billed in front of Robert Duvall, who got an Oscar, not for ‘Best Supporting Actor’, and Martin Sheen who was the main character of the entire flick. Same Thing with the Godfather. Essentially, the more important you are on the Hollywood ladder, the higher your name will be on the advertising material. By the time the studio system collapsed in the 1950’s, actors and agents were fighting for Top Billing on a film by film basis, and it still goes on today. When you see a poster like this, you need to understand that there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes that make it look like that. On one end you’ve got a marketing department choosing a poster design that best represents the film for the general public, and on the other end you’ve got contractual obligations that require certain actor’s names to be placed in a certain order. Often that order doesn’t match up with what the best poster design calls for. This usually becomes a problem in ensemble films. In Wild Hogs, Tim Allen gets Top Billing, so his name needs to be here, but since he is also playing a prominent role in the movie, he needs to be closer to the front of the group, so they put him here. You’re probably thinking: ‘Why not just do this?’ But to Hollywood executives, that’s a big no-no. Why? Simple. Market testing Shows Tim Allen in that front spot gets way more people into theater seats than if it was Martin Lawrence. Not saying I agree, I’m just telling you the name of the game. If it was your cash on the line, you’d probably go with the market experts too. And while, yes, it would be nice if they would just flip the design and have the names all match up, most marketing departments are going to stick with what’s shown to work, even if what’s shown to work doesn’t make any lick of sense. The problem you’ve got is Old-School billing rules clashing with New-School aesthetic. See, unlike the artistically driven timeless poster designs of Old, nowadays, there’s a set formula. Main characters usually in the center, shifted right, positioned in the foreground. Sidekick next to him, Damsel in Distress behind him, and the villain flanks the main character’s right. There are very few exceptions to this. Problem is, slap the traditional billing system on top of that and the whole thing looks like a mess. So, let’s just come up with a new system right? Oh, no, no, no, no, no sir. Hollywood superstar agents want it just the way it is, because if your agent can get you star billing, you’re going to pay him more, because every actor wants to have their name at the top of the sheet. Those who’ve climbed all the way to the top aren’t about to give up that spot for something silly like common sense poster design. Don’t believe me? In 1974 ‘The Towering Inferno’ starring Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and William Holden hit a production snag when all three leading fellas started gunning for the top spot. At that point in his career, Holden was old news with audiences, so producers quickly shot him down, but McQueen and Newman were both fighting intensely to earn the top bill. Both were huge stars of pretty much equal popularity, and the Studio had to figure out some way to appease both parties. Their solution? Stagger the names so that McQueen is furthest left, but Newman is furthest up. This way, technically speaking, they both got top billing. “Hey man, whatever works!” 2008’s ‘Righteous Kill’ did the same thing with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. Ocean’s Eleven is a great example of the problems with the billing system. It’s an ensemble film that starred some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and to avoid a bunch of annoying contract negotiations, the Studio made the decision that star billing would be listed alphabetically. But, that would have meant that Don Cheadle’s name would have come before George Clooney’s, and the Producers were keen on keeping Clooney’s name as the first that a casual viewer of the advertising would see. So, after a bitter fight he probably knew was a losing battle, Don Cheadle eventually just told the producers to remove his name from the movie’s credits completely, despite the fact that he plays a major part in the film. Which just goes to show that in Hollywood, the rules apply to everybody whose name isn’t George Clooney. Now, there are other unique billings that you see occasionally. A first-time actor in a leading role often gets an ‘Introducing’ tag with their name, and an actor may receive what’s called ‘Last Billing’ which usually designates a smaller role played by a famous name, usually credited after the rest of the lead cast. I like to call it ‘The Samuel L. Jackson’ slot. This is the way it’s been and this is the way it’ll always be. You don’t like it? Eh, can’t help you. As much as I’d like to. If you’re like me and you want movie posters to align properly, either the billing system needs to be changed, or the Poster Designer needs to figure out a unique layout that lines up actors appropriately, whilst still letting the advertisement to convey the content of the actual film accurately. But, then again, at the same time, you’d risk every film poster looking like a prison lineup sheet where each character is isolated and sized according to paycheck. Which, I mean, would have made ‘The Force Awakens” poster look something like this. But, then again, I’m sure some people would have called that an improvement. So, what’s the solution? I dunno. What do you think? Does the billing system in the motion picture industry need to be fixed? If so, how so? What would a better system look like? Let me know your ideas in the comments. See ya. *music*

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  1. If you didn't know this at this point in time…. YIKES.. not like the grips are gonna be listed but just as important!

  2. I personally think that the names don't need to be lined up. The problem here is that people make posters which always look the same and allign the people in always the same compositions when in fact they could put a little more effort into it creating stunning imagery for posters with that kind of a budget. The most logical for me is lead role first then support role. If you play the main character your name should appear first. But It should also be seen separated from the image. Posters should be something drawing attention for the MOVIE, to go watch it.

  3. What a great video! Concise, to the point and the editing made it a breeze to watch – plus your voice is nice & smooth to listen too

    Bravo sir 👏

  4. Why don’t they just make the top billed actors names bigger or more fancy with a different color, stroke etc. That would pretty much guarantee that your eye looks at that/those names first. This system ought to be changed, it’s just so confusing when trying to remember actors names when basing off of a movie poster.

  5. Pause at 1:28 and look at the names,on the left side of the last one(Morgan Freeman)says ‘und’.Spelling error;I think so.

  6. Yesssss!! I found a book that had this when I was in 4th grade and couldnt stop laughing saying the woman had a mans name and vise versa 😂🤦🏼‍♀️

  7. Why don't they just put their names under the persons face? That way the lead roles who are in the front will be read first.

  8. Remove the names completely and put Nicholas Cage on every poster and the box office for all movies will suddenly increase

  9. I never really focused on the names (i never even check who's starring in a movie before i watch it), but now that i see how mismatched they are with the picture, it's driving me mad.

  10. Easy solution – all the advertising becomes digital and people's privacy gets invaded so ad companies know how to target individuals the best.

  11. I was wandering all the time why they don't lining up correctly names and actors on posters ,now i know, thank you

  12. I hate this obsession with actors. I've never once watched a movie cuz of who is in it. My priority is plot and characters.

  13. Just just answered a question I had for DECADES! 😲 Thanks for that. Indeed, I had been wondering „what the FUCK is wrong with the guys making these posters?“ 😂

  14. 2:41 lol this reminds me of the skit that they did for the proposal, where ryan reynolds calls out betty white for being a dick to him and sandra bullock lambasts him for not knowing his place on the Hollywood ladder, saying that he is expendable conpared to her and betty.

  15. I was literally just thinking about this after seeing the Last Christmas poster… next thing you know… video shows up.

  16. So Hollywood has hired a bunch of idiots that think I'll see fuckin' Tim 'Who Gives A Shit' Allen on the left instead of the middle and think 'Well, the trailer was pretty good and I was gonna watch it, but not if Martin Lawrence is in the middle of the poster. Fuck 'dat shit.'

  17. So you would stay on the poster more, trying to match it with the actor/actress therefore imersing you to the movie itself and have a higher chance of remembering it when planning to watch a movie.

  18. It's simple. I'll take the poster in the thumbnail as an example. Johnny Depp has been mentioned first, because he's the most famous actor among three of them. You would most likely read from left to right, so you would see his name first. They had to put his photo in the middle because he's the main character and because you would most likely see the photo in the middle first.
    I study media sociology (idk if this is a correct translation tho) at the university and we had a whole ass course dedicated to stuff like that.

  19. I always did wonder why some actors got the ‘and this person as this person’ at the end of it. Thanks for clearing it up

  20. If I ever make it big in Hollywood, I'm going to get my agent to fight not for "top billing," but for "appropriate billing" where they make sure that regardless of any other billing slots, if my face is on the poster, my name is appropriately placed on it too.

  21. I always assumed it was because it'd be considered lame design to match the faces to the names. you know, to give it a little switcheroo

  22. I can tell you why! It is because normally the graphic designers aren't the ones putting the final text on. 9 times out of 10 they send them off to the studio without text and it is someone else that slaps it on. As a designer myself I just can't see the rest of us being this careless… imo

  23. Aaaaaaaaand up until watching this I never knew….. And still don't care. My point being, the only people that care about top billing is Hollywood marketing

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