C. Robert Cargill January 12, 2011
The movie poster, as we’ve long known it, is dead. It has been for quite some time. Sure, the studio marketing departments keep chucking out their grotesque monstrosities, often blitzing movie blogs and news websites with the images in hopes of drumming up interest in their upcoming films — but those aren’t really posters anymore; they’re images. You can still find them, lingering behind dingy plastic windows at the multiplex or chopped up and pasted onto turnstile triangles that flip to reveal a different poster every thirty seconds, but those are just shadows of what posters used to be. They used to be glorious. Evocative. Intriguing. When you looked at one — a good one — it told you everything you needed to know about a movie in order to convince you to see it.
Now? Now posters tell you who is in the film, usually with nothing more than the actor’s big head with their last name emblazoned over the top. There is very little artistry anymore. The studios hire marketing guys, not artists. And the result is a 27″ x 40″ commercial, not a piece of art.
Enter Mondo, subsidiary business of the legendary Alamo Drafthouse. Beginning as a pet project that sold specialty t-shirts out of an incredibly small storefront built into the hallway of the original Alamo Drafthouse on (4th and Colorado here in Austin, Texas), Mondo found a new niche when the Drafthouse wanted to print its own specialty posters for events. Immediately the local demand for these specialty posters was at a fever pitch; getting one became part of the fun of attending an event or festival. But the stroke of genius came when filmmakers began to commission posters for their special Drafthouse events — and a cottage industry grew.
The idea behind Mondo posters was to find classic geek properties and new geek favorites and produce interesting, artistic posters for those films. Mondo would acquire the rights to produce a limited amount, task one of their incredibly talented artists to go at it, and then sell the posters in extremely limited quantities — making them collector’s items. And all was well and good, with most posters selling out within hours of availability. Then everything changed. Setting the bar a bit higher, Mondo sought out permission to do a run of Star Trek and Star Wars prints, commemorating different episodes, films, and characters — each told through the lens of a different artist. This got the attention of almost every geek blog out there and just weeks ago a run of three posters, selling at $50 a piece, sold out in seconds, before their availability was even announced. People were so interested in the posters that buyers and speculators hit the site, reloading the page every few seconds all morning, hoping to score them. Several posters went up on eBay within minutes, with bids reaching into four digits for the set. The rapid sellout caused a furor in the community, with people ranting for hours online about missing out on the posters.
Needless to say, Mondo has come a long way since their early days in that hallway. Already, a number of geek walls are loaded with posters for films and events produced in quantities often hovering around only 150. Here’s my own office wall (click on image for a larger look), sporting an early Mondo poster commemorating the first Transformers Experience (Michael Bay’s Transformers preceded by a robot dinosaur eating cars in the parking lot), one for the Star Trek episode “Space Seed” (the episode that leads into Wrath of Khan), and Pixar artist Eric Tan’s interpretation of the classic actioner The Warriors.
Not to be outdone, my buddy and fellow film critic Brian Salisbury has over a dozen Mondos hanging on his walls. Below is his shrine to artist Tyler Stout and his versions of Inglorious Basterds, Edgar Wright’s television series Spaced, and ’80s classic The Monster Squad.
Geeks love to represent their love of their favorite films in tangible ways. Mondo finally offers them a way to display art rather than just a commercial. Expect to hear an awful lot more about them as word continues to spread and their wares become harder to find.
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