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December 7, 2005posterwireMarketing10
Silent Hill movie poster contest

Silent Hill movie poster contest

Design the Silent Hill movie poster

Sony Tri-Star is running a “Create a Silent Hill movie poster” contest:

Think you’re a fan of Silent Hill? Prove it. Design your own movie poster! Everything you need is right here — photos, titles, key guidelines, etc. The winning poster may be printed and may be distributed to theaters. So get those creative juices flowing, design and submit your poster by January 3, 2006. Then get all your friends to vote for your poster starting January 4, 2006 because the winning artist gets $2,500 cash, 25 passes to see the movie, and more.

We are not fans of “design our movie poster” contests run by film studios — at least the kind that dangle the idea the winning design will be used as the film’s official one-sheet.

There are many reasons for our reservations, but one that comes to mind is this type of “contest” doesn’t do anything to help the “Photoshop crap” criticism that is commonly directed at modern Hollywood one-sheets. This type of competition plays into the “Anyone can design!” stereotype that infuriates so many art directors and designers in all corners of commercial art. (See the always enjoyable Clientcopia for examples of this frustration.)

To our knowledge, no film studio to date has released a “contest poster” design as a domestic one-sheet in theatres. There have been movie poster contests in the past, most notably for the Resident Evil series (also released by Sony). Perhaps this contest will result in the first fan poster to reach your local theatre lobby. (Fingers crossed!)

The practice of leaving key art marketing decisions in the hands of the “audience” is nothing new. (Many Hollywood film one-sheets are run through public focus groups, just like the films themselves.) But the idea of one-sheet contests may have first started back in 1995, when Fine Line Features ran a “Pick Our Poster” web contest for their film The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love. The studio posted two final poster designs (created by the ad agency working on the film) on the film’s official website, and invited viewers to vote on their favorite design. The winning design was set to be printed and released to theatres as the film’s one-sheet. The voting came and went, and a winning design was chosen… Until, at the last minute, the studio completely changed their mind, ignored the contest results, and printed a new third design that combined elements of the two contest posters, having nothing to do with the contest itself. Ironically, that poster contest result gave the public a real taste of the three Rs (“Review. Revise. Reject.”) in the film advertising key art poster design process that so many one-sheets go through.

The Sony film advertising execs seem to have learned from this type of mistake, as the Sony / Tri-Star Silent Hill poster web site clearly states: “The winning poster may be printed and may be distributed to theaters.” (Emphasis ours.) The contest does offer just a bit of interesting insight into some things considered when creating a movie poster, including guidelines imposed by the MPAA for key art:

Studio Guidelines

In order to become an official movie poster suitable for all audiences the poster must follow the guidelines listed below:

1. No nudity or sexual activity
2. No gun to camera/no shooting to camera
3. No gun to victim/no shooting to victim
4. No more than 2 guns may appear
5. No reference to drugs/drug paraphernalia
6. No offensive language or gestures
7. No blood
8. No violence towards women
9. No cruelty to animals
10. No mutations/mutilations/cadavers
11. No excessive violence or brutality
12. No rape/molestations
13. No people on fire
14. No people in explosion/people blown out of explosion
15. No exploiting/capitalizing on rating (i.e., “R has never gone this far”, “Banned in Boston”)
16. No demeaning of religion, race or national origin

So all those designers and “Photoshop gurus” out there who have dreamed of designing movie posters, Sony is giving you your chance… maybe.

Buy Silent Hill movie posters at: AllPosters, eBay,, Amazon

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  1. BenDecember 7, 2005 at 6:03 PMReply

    Are those guidelines mentioned above the acutal MPAA guidelines or have the been modified by the studio?

    I couldn’t find any info on the MPAA site on movie poster guidelines.

  2. adminDecember 7, 2005 at 6:56 PMReply

    I don’t think you’ll find mention of any specific MPAA guidelines with regards to print advertising — it’s not a widely publicized thing, but is something everyone working in the industry is familiar with, hence the list of rules at the Sony website.

  3. BrentDecember 7, 2005 at 9:21 PMReply

    The first RESIDENT EVIL design a poster contest winner poster was sent to theatres in a very limited quantity on opening week.

    RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE was changed to that it MAY BE used and was never outright promised to be so.

  4. adminDecember 7, 2005 at 10:04 PMReply

    Brent: Unfortunatly, Sony scuttled their original Resident Evil site, along with the first contest pages and info. Hence we couldn’t find much information about any official release of the contest winner’s design to theatres, even as a limited promotion.

    I do know it wasn’t used as the domestic one-sheet, which is the point we were trying to make about how these contests, at the very least, imply that could be the end result.

    But, since this is Hollywood, anything is possible, and the Silent Hill contest winner could go the distance — stranger things have happened. ;)

  5. AndrewDecember 17, 2005 at 9:40 AMReply

    Sony used the winning poster for RE: Apocalypse in mainly European markets… I never saw it used in any North American theatre.

    It’s unfortunate that the winning poster for the first RE wasn’t used more widely, because that was truly an awesome poster! Better than the generic one-sheet Sony pushed (Milla + machine gun + red background…YAWN).

  6. HargonDecember 18, 2005 at 2:05 AMReply

    I worked at a theater when Resident Evil was released (southern usa) and the day the movie was released we received the fan designed one-sheet. I still have two copies of it. So it was used as a domestic one-sheet, just very limited.

  7. Bill CunninghamDecember 18, 2005 at 9:00 PMReply

    “I don’t think you’ll find mention of any specific MPAA guidelines with regards to print advertising — it’s not a widely publicized thing, but is something everyone working in the industry is familiar with, hence the list of rules at the Sony website.”

    Actually, those are paraphrased guidelines from the MPAA pamphlet regarding key art and advertisng materials for films rated by the MPAA. As the former Director of Marketing at a DVD Distributor, I recall them vividly as I used to receive “FAILED” or “DENIED” on a lot of the art we used to concoct for our horror and urban titles.

  8. sstJanuary 22, 2006 at 10:29 AMReply

    These contests are shams. Have you seen the finalists for this contest? Bo-ring. You can bet that at least one of these is a fake that Sony put up themselves to swing the vote in their favor. But none of them are any good.

    The first Resident Evil conest was also rigged, the winner was the son of some famous person. It was surround by crappy posters, so of course it was a shoe-in to win.

    Did anyone try designed posters for any of these contests? I did for the second movie’s contest. Maybe I’m just bitter. :)

  9. Factory Workers « « the movie poster weblogDecember 16, 2006 at 10:23 AMReply

    […] The Weinstein Company is running a movie poster design contest to create a Factory Girl movie poster. This poster is for the contest only, not to design the actual Factory Girl movie poster one-sheet used in theaters. Our opinion of “Design a Movie Poster” contests is well known, so we won’t rehash that again. Well, just one rehashed point: No major film studio has ever run a contest to design a movie poster where the winning entry was used as the domestic theatrical one-sheet for a film key art ad campaign. This contest is no different. However, since the film studios seem to be inching closer and closer to this idea, we predict it will happen eventually. […]

  10. Movie Poster Thunderdome « « the movie poster weblogFebruary 9, 2008 at 10:52 AMReply

    […] won’t rehash our feelings about movie poster contests, but we do believe you’ll be seeing more of this “online focus group for film […]

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