Hulk Movie Poster Maker Article

Seiniger did the Hulk movie poster, and his poster for Jaws earned him a lot of attention in Hollywood--enough for a personal call from Arnold Schwarzenegger to request one for T3.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The king of Hollywood film posters, Tony Seiniger, recently received a call from Arnold Schwarzenegger, the once-and-current box office king.

Tony Seiniger, seen in the reflection of his most recent poster, has created movie posters for nearly 30 years.

The star's request could toss an unexpected twist into the $250 million business of creating Hollywood's movie posters, and, perhaps, change the way some movie concepts are sold.

The hero of Terminator III had just read a movie script he liked, but couldn't quite grasp the film's essence. He asked Seiniger — who had done posters for two of his earlier films — for a favor: Create a poster for the yet-to-be-made movie to help Schwarzenegger visualize the film.

Seiniger obliged. The poster depicted bounty hunter Schwarzenegger wrestling for a gun on the beach with wiseguy Cedric the Entertainer. Schwarzenegger liked what he saw. Now, studio hotshots are eyeing that script, Joe's Last Chance, for production.

Of course, the purpose of movie posters is to sell movies to moviegoers, not to actors or studio executives. That's not changing soon.

But as he's done for three decades in the business, Seiniger is stretching the limits of his craft. Somebody has to. Despite a summer of supposed blockbusters and can't-miss sequels, ticket sales are off nearly 5% — and likely to fall short of last summer's record $3.15 billion. That has Hollywood executives turning to their ad agencies to pump up the volume. And the central image in a movie's hype is its poster.

"If you can make a great poster, you can make a great movie," says Seiniger, founder and creative force at Seiniger Advertising Group, where he has made posters and trailers for more than 1,500 films. Seiniger, 64, also is sole owner. After selling the shop to British ad giant WPP Group in 1989 for about $11 million, the savvy Seiniger bought it back for about $7 million when WPP hit financial woes four years later.

"I'm the last one of my era," says Seiniger, an engaging self-promoter who — like many of his Hollywood clients — has never been accused of being modest. Perhaps that's why Hollywood has been knocking on his door for posters for nearly 30 years. Think Jaws. Think One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Think The Last Emperor. All won Best Picture Oscars. And all had posters created by Seiniger Advertising.

"Tony is the godfather of modern movie advertising," says Marc Shmuger, vice chairman at Universal Pictures.

Seiniger's Beverly Hills office sits within eyeshot of chic Rodeo Drive. But inside, it looks and feels more like a disjointed Hollywood film set. Posters hang here. And there. The back of the shop is littered with film paraphernalia.

The poster is the face of a movie

Marketing movies ranks among the most high-pressure work in the ad world. Studios often have just days to sell their films — especially in the critical summer season.

And while movie trailers may lure many moviegoers into the cinema, it's the posters that instantly identify a flick. It's the posters whose familiar images appear on DVD and video cases, on soft-drink cups and other promotions, on merchandise and in ads. It's the posters that film buffs collect. And it's the posters that often leave the single most powerful impression.

"It's insane the way this business is done," he says. In fact, it's mostly done in a computer. Most of his staff of 30 sit not-so-quietly in front of their screens much of the day, creating and re-creating images. But only a tiny fraction of those images ultimately make the cut.

The Schwarzenegger poster was created with photo trickery. There was no daylong photo session with the stars. Seiniger clipped images of Schwarzenegger and Cedric from the Internet and plopped them digitally onto a computer screen. Presto: instant movie sales tool. And it cost Seiniger less than $5,000.

But creating real posters for big-budget blockbusters is complex — and costly.

One of this summer's most anticipated film's was The Hulk. While some critics have panned the Universal Pictures film as forgettable, the movie poster for The Hulk certainly isn't: an angry, green creature mostly hidden by his own enormous hand.

The Hulk opened strong at $62 million, only to plummet 70% in its second weekend. Seiniger insists he did his job. "All we're responsible for is the first Friday's business," he says. "After that it's all word of mouth."

Guess how many individual Hulk posters Seiniger and his agency crew created before helping Universal select that one. A couple dozen? Or, perhaps, 100? Maybe even 200?

Try 691. That's right, 691 individual posters that showed everything from the now-famous giant-green-hand poster to hundreds of other posters that showed the green behemoth in all his glory.

For Seiniger, the choice was a no-brainer.

"Steven Spielberg advised me years ago that you make it more intriguing by not showing too much," says Seiniger, whose agency spent a year creating The Hulk posters. "Let them pay to see the real thing."

What Seiniger was paid for The Hulk work: a cool $500,000.

The poster Seiniger is perhaps best known for is the one he created in 1974 for Jaws: a giant, sharp-toothed shark — its mouth wide open — approaching a lone female swimmer.

His agency spent a then-unheard-of six months developing the Jaws poster. "No matter what we did, it didn't look scary enough," says Seiniger. The sharks in test posters kept looking more like dolphins. Then, the idea hit him. "You had to actually go underneath the shark so you could see his teeth."

That poster — which he made the same year he opened his agency — was life changing. "It made my career," Seiniger says. "Suddenly, everyone wanted me."

They still do.

"Seiniger and crew are the New York Yankees of the profession," says Richard Kahn, past president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. "He's always the front-runner that people are trying to knock from the top."

For years, Seiniger's agency created as many film trailers as movie posters. But recently, Seiniger has opted to do mostly posters. "The trailer business has been dumbed down by national research polls," he says. There's lots more room for creativity, and less studio interference, in film posters.

Stars can be difficult

It's not always easy working with celebrities. For the poster Seiniger made for Patriot Games, Harrison Ford refused to pose with a gun, so, Seiniger improvised. He sent a photographer to the film set who took pictures of the live action — and luckily came away with a poster-worthy photo.

About Tony Seiniger

Education: Bachelor of arts degree from Rhode Isl
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