The Movie Waffler New Release Review - 24X36: A MOVIE ABOUT MOVIE POSTERS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - 24X36: A MOVIE ABOUT MOVIE POSTERS

Documentary on the history of promotional movie art and those keeping it alive today.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Kevin Burke


"Is there a script?"

"Fuck no. But there's a poster!"

Who can forget that memorable interaction between Johnny Depp's Edward D Wood Jr and Mike Starr's disreputable producer Georgie Weiss in Tim Burton's 1994 gem Ed Wood? In the decades before the advent of TV, the one-sheet poster was the premium tool for filmmakers seeking to promote their upcoming productions outside of cinemas. Now, with YouTube bringing trailers to the fore, the art of the movie poster, on an official basis at least, seems a lost one.


Kevin Burke's documentary 24x36 begins by taking a look at the history of movie poster art, with commentators rightly fawning over the glorious products of the golden age of the artform - roughly from the birth of cinema to the late 1980s. These were works of art in the classic sense, hand drawn by artists, many of whom worked exclusively in the form, but also established mainstream artists like Norman Rockwell, who found himself in the employ of the Hollywood marketing machine for a brief period. As a kid in the '80s, movie posters, now shrunken to the dimensions of a VHS rental cover, made a trip to the video store extra special for me. As Burke's doc points out, the outrageous artwork often sold you a product the movie couldn't possibly live up to, as artists' imaginations outpaced those of the filmmakers and their limited budgets.


In the late '80s, things began to change, as hand-drawn art was superceded by the dreaded 'floating heads' poster format that still persists today. It's a transition lamented by most of the interviewees here, not least because it's led to some of them finding themselves out of work. The film does give us the other side of the story however, with studio employees explaining the depressing results of focus groups that found a considerable number of members of the general public will shun a movie if it's promoted with art rather than photographic imagery, mistakenly believing it to be an animated film. The advent of streaming is explained as the final nail in the coffin of movie art, with posters reduced to thumbnail size on the dashboards of Netflix, Amazon and the like.

Though Hollywood may have turned its back on the classic movie poster, a new generation of artists are keeping the form alive, and the bulk of the documentary looks at their work, focussing chiefly on the Mondo group and their promotional work for the Alamo Drafthouse chain of US boutique cinemas.


If you're looking for a general look at the art of the movie posters, 24x36 is a disappointment. The history of the form is all too briefly passed over, and the film really misses a trick by failing to explore how movies are promoted in differing countries. I would have loved some time devoted to the unique movie poster styles of Poland and Thailand, for example. If you expect any insights into the giants of the field, like Drew Struzan, Saul Bass and Bill Gold, you'll have to look elsewhere. 24x36 isn't quite a movie about movie posters, as its subtitle suggests, but rather a movie about movie poster appreciation, an approach most viewers will find less interesting than a wider look at the art form.

24x36 can be streamed exclusively on from July 11th and can be purchased from