Did you know there numerous different forms of movie posters? That’s right; there are quads, 2 sheets, billboards, and wild posts!

Today we are going to talk about the two most used but often confused. “The Payoff Movie Poster” and “The Teaser.” They both play an important role within the world of entertainment marketing as well as movie poster collecting, as you will see.

Teaser Posters

Unsurprisingly, the main objective of a teaser poster is to tease the audience, to leave people wanting more of the movie that’s only being presented to them, but not detailed in any way.

A good teaser poster will get to you through humor or mystery; it will make you feel hyped and excited and very ignorant about the movie’s plot.

This kind of poster is meant to specify as little information regarding the film as possible while still letting the brand be recognizable.

If the protagonist of a blockbuster franchise is well known enough, the audience won’t even need the movie’s title to know what’s being advertised in the poster.

Teaser posters thrive on the iconic, on the logos, and the figures that the public loves enough to be thrilled due to the sole idea of jumping into their story.

Sometimes these posters state a date of release, but most are happy just announcing “coming soon.” They don’t worry themselves with movie credits but do care about design and copy. 

Think of it this way: it is effortless for the audience to leave a cinema after watching an amazing action film, feeling exhilarated for the cliffhanger they just saw, and super willing to see the sequel as soon as it comes out… but the biggest budget films take a long time to be produced, and the sequel may not come out for a year or two or more.

How do you keep the audience interested then? That’s what teaser posters are for.

Examples of Teaser Posters
Examples of Teaser Posters

With a silhouetted character, a shocking color palette, some intriguing copy, or a franchise title, these posters will get people booking tickets for movies way before they premiere (truth be told, even though they were originated to keep the excitement going on while the blockbusters were being made, nowadays teaser posters are used for other kinds of films too. I guess the industry discovered that teasing the audience was quite useful to sell films!).

But guess what? Teaser posters are a big thing for collectors too. Especially when the project they advertise is finally canceled or when the moviemakers get overly confident about their teaser posters while the final stages of production are still going on.

They end up teasing some information that’s not completely matching with the final product (for example, if a word in the title changes or the hero’s costume suffers major design changes), then the mistaken teaser poster will likely become a cult collector’s item. 

A famous real-life example is George Lucas’s “Return of the Jedi.” This movie was originally called “Revenge of the Jedi.” But Mr. Lucas didn’t think “revenge” was a characteristic a Jedi should have.

A small batch of teaser posters was already delivered throughout the country with “revenge” in the title, and now this small batch of teasers that shouldn’t have been released are major collector items!

Revenge of the Jedi

Keep in mind that these are early promotional posters, are sometimes made while the film is still being developed, and that’s basically why they try not to show much more than symbols, taglines, or main characters looking at camera.

It might sound easy to create a decent teaser, given that there’s less information to condense into the design than in regular movie posters, but it is never easy to build a major frenzy of attention surrounding a new film by working with very minimalistic elements.

If the designer is good, our attention will be spiked. If the designer is brilliant, we will be as hyped as it gets and desperate for movie tickets.  The poster’s “idea” is everything in teasers.

Movie Posters aka Payoffs

Teaser posters are fun, but they are not enough to acknowledge the ever-increasing amount of people working on movie projects, they are not very useful when searching for details about the plot, they don’t show all the actors and actresses, and that’s why movie posters are also (and probably even more) necessary to advertise upcoming films.

Nevermind what they were taught during childhood, people judge books by their covers, and they judge movies by their posters

Examples of Payoff Movie Posters
Examples of Payoff movie posters

Movie posters include the most important characters of the story; they show objects and/or places relevant to the plot, usually organized in a photo montage or an illustration (although these days, photos are more common thanks in part to the design program Photoshop).

Typography design is an essential ingredient for their making, too, as it will determine the looks of the title, the copy, the billing, and the names of the main actors and actresses. We dive real deep into typography with this article:

These posters include a lot more information than the teasers because they usually show the specific release date, and sometimes they even tell you where you will find the movie (“only in cinemas”).

In the end, they are also meant to promote films and attract the audience that will buy tickets as that is the number one goal, to get bodies in movie theaters or now almost, more importantly, eyeballs on the TV screen with subscriptions to Netflix, HBO, HULU and all the rest of the streaming services.

There are multiple formats and sizes a movie poster can take (the most known form is the vertical payoff poster, aka “One-Sheet/Payoff,” but there are also billboards and character posters). The design chosen to advertise the same movie can vary according to the various international markets’ necessities.

Image and text are always there, but the hierarchy of the elements involved in the composition can vary. For some movies, the director’s name is a massive selling point (let’s say, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton, or Woody Allen, for example).

If there are big movie stars in the movie (I’m talking Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, or Meryl Streep big), the poster will also certainly let you know.

There are cases in which the aesthetic is everything for the movie (that’s the case in any piece by Wes Anderson and in many indie productions), and then the poster will heavily rely on aesthetics too.

And when the project has a lower, quite modest budget, then the poster will have to make a big deal out of the title or the protagonist. Often, when working with a small budget, the movie poster will have to be more compelling and well-made to gain interest.

Black Widow

Poster harmony

Both teasers and payoff movie posters are usually displayed inside cinemas because if you’re planning on selling new movies, you might as well start by offering them to the people who are already willing to pay for movie tickets.

When there’s a budget for it, the posters also get to the streets. When there’s not, the internet will do well enough.

Now, the next time you go to the movie theater on a date with a fellow cinephile, and you need an ice-breaker, you can point at the closest poster and be like, “You know what’s the difference between teaser posters and movie posters?”.

The cool thing is that there are numerous other forms of movie posters that both collectors and future movie poster designers need to know about and that’s why we wrote this article:

Collecting posters

If you read this far then, chances are you are interested in posters, big time. The cool thing is that we have several interesting articles dedicated to the hobby or profession of movie poster collecting. That being said, you may enjoy these popular articles:

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