Movie Poster of the Week: The American Film Theatre

Poster and program art for a renowned series of filmed plays currently being resurrected on screen.
Adrian Curry

In the newest issue of Film Comment magazine I write about the designer Alan Peckolick, a master of lettering who was responsible for one of the great American movie posters of the ’70s, for Short Eyes. Peckolick was a student of—and eventually a business partner of—the great Herb Lubalin, and the poster above comes from a book Peckolick wrote about his mentor in 1985.

Both Lubalin and Peckolick worked together on the branding for the films of the American Film Theatre, a project initiated in 1973 by producer Ely Landau to bring great theatre to movie-going audiences with low-budget, star-studded, text-faithful adaptations of a number of contemporary classics. The Quad Cinema in New York is currently playing 12 of these films through November 21.

To promote the first series of films Lubalin and Peckolick gave each play its own very distinctive title treatment while also commissioning equally striking illustrations for each film.

In addition to these designs, the American Film Theatre produced beautiful individual “Cinebill” programs for each film. I’m not sure if Lubalin-Peckolick designed the Cinebills too, but their style could not be more different from the poster above. Where the poster’s illustrations and title treatments are vibrantly colorful, the Cinebills each have a single, different wash of color. And where the Lubalin-Peckolick title treatments are expressive and ornate, the lettering on the Cinebills is impressively restrained: just small, all caps, sans serif white type in each corner.

Screen Play: The American Film Theatre runs from November 15–21 at the Quad Cinema.

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Movie Poster of the WeekAmerican Film TheatreHerb LubalinAlan PeckolickColumns
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