The Four Moviegoer Quadrants.


Some Hollywood types explain the four groups to whom they pitch movies, and what they like and don’t like in a film.

Young men. Movie likes: Explosions, blood, cars flying through the air, pratfalls, poop jokes, “you’re so gay” banter, and sex. Dislikes: Romance.

Young Women. Likes: Friendship, pop music, fashion, sarcasm, sensitive boys who think with their hearts, and romance. Dislikes: Sex. (Though the article says ” they like to hear the naughty girl telling her friends about it.”) Both young men and women like horror in equal measure, but women prefer atmosphere to gore. Men, vice versa.

Older women. Likes: “Stories of doomed love and triumphs of the human spirit. They enjoy seeing an older woman having her pick of men.” Dislikes: Children in danger. “Particularly once they reach thirty, these women are the most ‘review-sensitive’: a chorus of critical praise for a movie aimed at older women can increase the opening weekend’s gross by five million dollars. In other words, older women are discriminating, which is why so few films are made for them.”

Older men. Likes: Dark films, Westerns, men acting dumb, war movies. Dislikes: Ummm. They’re easy to please, but hard to get to the theater. “Guys only get off their couches twice a year, to go to ‘Wild Hogs’ or ‘3:10 to Yuma,’ ” the marketing consultant Terry Press says. “If all you have is older males, it’s time to take a pill.”

But it’s the semiotics of the trailers/posters that’s really fascinating. In an effort to make movies appeal to the broadest possible audience, they downplay/overplay the race of the cast accordingly. Horror posters have dark backgrounds, while comedies have white backgrounds with the title and copy line in red. “Floating head” ads need to be rubber-stamped by the big star headlining the movie. Even dramas will be portrayed as comedies because jokes are easier to stuff into trailers than poignant, emotional moments. Oh, and in movie trailers, no one is allowed to die.

Also, I couldn’t let this pass without comment.

Paul Haggis, the writer-director of the 2005 film “Crash,” says, “I came in thinking [the head of marketing] was doing everything wrong. He made the poster Michael Peña screaming over his daughter, rather than selling Brendan Fraser or Matt Dillon or Sandra Bullock. I worried that the trailer, a mood piece about how people have to crash into each other to feel alive, was going to seem like overly significant claptrap.”

Really, Paul Haggis? ‘Cuz it sounds to me like that poster was spot the fuck on.

[posters via.]

16 thoughts on “The Four Moviegoer Quadrants.

  1. Molly January 14, 2009 at 2:06 pm Reply

    I think about this all the time! As an advertiser living in what I consider to be Middle America, I am appalled at how unsubtle the average firm is; how unsubtle the average advertising professional, from corp comm to digital media, is. They not only rely on cliches, they live and believe in them. This is probably a big reason why bigger firms are flagging–because they are completely unable to produce a message that is not mass market, when human truths are much more gray than they could ever comprehend. A few firms, like the True Agency, based out of LA, base their marketing on concepts that are more pan-cultural; that really grasp complicated amalgamations that arise from urban living and an ever increasing population. But seriously, the advertising and entertainment industries need to catch up…

  2. Molly January 14, 2009 at 2:15 pm Reply

    omg, I put my last name without thinking…

  3. G.D. January 14, 2009 at 2:55 pm Reply


  4. Molly January 14, 2009 at 3:05 pm Reply

    thank you!

  5. Redstar January 14, 2009 at 3:39 pm Reply

    OMG, Crash was SUCH a trainwreck of a movie. What crap. I expected more, foolishly, because so many people loved it, but man, was it TERRIBLE. Trite, shallow…my mind is actually blanking on all the adjectives I want to throw around right now!

  6. G.D. January 14, 2009 at 3:42 pm Reply

    I’ve never hated a movie as much as I hate ‘Crash.’ It was a stupid, manipulative movie with shitty dialogue, broad characterizations and reprehensible politics.

  7. grahamad January 14, 2009 at 3:48 pm Reply


    My boyfriend and I hold it up as one of the worst, for sure, and indicative of H’wood getting it so wrong.

  8. G.D. January 14, 2009 at 3:52 pm Reply

    i was at work when it won the Oscar, and i stood up at my desk and just started cursing.

    it’s a movie about racism for people who never think about racism.

  9. G.D. January 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm Reply

    also, i just sort of hate Paul Haggis.

  10. grahamad January 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm Reply

    “it’s a movie about racism for people who never think about racism.”


    And that was what was so appalling once I had seen it. I was like, man, if all these people like this movie, is this what they really think race relations and human relationships are about? That this is how life works? E.GADS.

    I don’t know who Haggis is, and I mostly just think of Mike Myers in Who Married an Axe Murderer talking about the Scottish meat when I hear the name.

  11. quadmoniker January 14, 2009 at 4:14 pm Reply

    Yay, one more chance to talk about how much Crash sucked!

  12. Molly January 14, 2009 at 4:18 pm Reply

    I thought I was the only one who couldn’t watch it. Good to know I wasn’t making up that there was something wrong with that movie.

  13. ladyfresshh January 14, 2009 at 5:07 pm Reply

    thank you!

    it’s a movie about racism for people who never think about racism.

    it didn’t bother me as much but it definitely bothered you and while you have said why
    i think this sums it up well

    as for those man i can’t watch advertising
    even though i work at one now
    because i am never ever EVER targeted correctly
    im admittedly an odd duck though and really cant expect this
    but even their regular attempts are lame

  14. quadmoniker January 14, 2009 at 6:52 pm Reply

    G.D., you didn’t just stand up at your desk and start cursing. You also said some really priceless things, including: “That movie made me morally constipated,” and “it was the cinematic equivalent of drowning babies.”

  15. […] tips to PostBourgie for the New Yorker article, NoSnowHere for the Nation article among […]

  16. conseula January 16, 2009 at 8:20 pm Reply

    The suckiness of Crash can never be overstated and that Eastwood poster is perfect and seems to pretty much some up nearly every Eastwood movie.

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