You may notice that the poster you saw in your local cinema (on the above left) is notably different from the cover of the disc you will buy or rent (on the above right).
The cinema poster – designed by BLT Associates – is fairly conceptual. It depicts the three main characters of the film (Clooney in the middle, flanked by Anna Kendrick on the left and Vera Farmiga on the right) but they are distant, in silhouette and made to look small by the airport glass and plane outside.
The Helvetica font and colour scheme (cool blues, mixed with whites and blacks) are very reminiscent of an airport and the overall effect is neat as it captures both the bittersweet mood and basic themes of the film.
Reitman recently said that he got the basic idea for the poster by taking a similar photo whilst filming on location at an airport but that some folks at Paramount marketing (the studio that funded the film) were keen on getting a little more of Clooney in the image.
After all, if you have paid a considerable amount for a star, you want to get your money’s worth even if he’s working at a reduced rate on a prestige, Oscar-candidate project like this.
But now the DVD and Blu-ray has come out in the US (that would be on the above right), you can see the difference.
Althought they have inverted the colour scheme of the theatrical poster, the main image features a much more prominent Clooney (laughing) alongside Vera Farmiga, with them both laughing at a bar.
The combined effect emphasises the comedy/feel-good aspect of the film alongside the romance and downplays the more serious themes of recession, job firings and isolation that crop up eslewhere in the story.
Personally, I think it looks horrible and doesn’t do justice to the quality of the film, but – even for a home entertainment release – it also looks pretty ropey, as if an intern was asked to do it on Photoshop on his lunch break.
So, what to make of all this?
Firstly, movie posters come out of a tradition where they are seen at cinemas, bus stops and various outdoor displays which mean they have to be larger in size. In comparison, DVD and Blu-rays are smaller so they have less space to grab your attention, often resulting in a face shot of the actors.
Secondly, one of the time honoured traditions in Hollywood is for everyone to blame the marketing if a film doesn’t do well at the box office. Although Up in the Air was by no means a flop – especially given its relatively lean budget – maybe Paramount felt they could dupe new audiences into thinking it is some kind of romantic comedy.
Thirdly, given that the (literal) shelf life of a film is longer in the shop than it is at cinemas, you would think that more time and effort would be spent on getting it right, rather than just reacting to what happened on the theatrical release.
Finally, it seems that the UK DVD & Blu-ray release of Up in the Air has exactly the same design as the theatrical poster, which could mean that: a) We have better taste over here b) Paramount UK couldn’t be bothered to change it or c) None of the above applies.
These two posters accurately reflect the frustration of anyone who has legally bought a DVD and put it in the player only to be confronted with a patronising advert (that you can’t skip!) which informs you that piracy (the very thing you just haven’t done) is both bad and wrong.