Why US International Photos Made Movies Backwards

Do you hate clickbait? Blame AIP.

US International Photos

By Meg Shields Published on July 6, 2022

Welcome to The Queue – your daily diversion of curated video content sourced from the web. Today we’re looking at a video essay explaining how American International Pictures adopted a clickbait formula to put butts on chairs.

From the perspective of the ever-evolving fresh hell of 2022, the term “clickbait” doesn’t have the Best connotations. False advertising doesn’t really have a complementary “yes, but…” clause that leaks out at the end of it. There’s also—among certain moviegoers—a gut-level distaste for anything that’s clearly conceived in a lab. By this I mean movies that are clearly conceived around a spacious boardroom table with profit and sequel potential in mind.

Realistically, most of our media pipeline looks like this these days. This is especially true as the line between distributor and exhibitor continues to blur in the streaming world. Was the last Star War given the go-ahead because the director had a vision or because it was part of a five-year plan concocted on a golf course?

If you’re looking for someone responsible for this backward approach to movie making (or maybe you’re not a cynic and you’re just curious), look no further than American International Pictures. A prominent B-Movie studio, AIP was AIP’s answer to the 1950s conundrum of how to get a butt in chairs by starting with a title, a poignant poster, and a hyperbolic slogan. Did the monster on screen have to fulfill the promise of the giant monster on the poster? Absolutely not. The main thing was to figure out how to crochet people first. Actually making the damn movie come second.

While AIP’s reverse approach to filmmaking would arguably have damaging effects in the next millennia, the strategy itself delivered some certified bangers. Roger Corman’s beatnik horror comedy a bucket of blood, George Miller’s Mad Maxand Mario Bava is fantastic Planet of the Vampires are all really incredible movies. (It’s also worth noting that the great Larry Cohen – the man behind it’s alive and The stuff – was also famous for starting out marketing a movie and working backwards).

But why did AIP adopt this strategy at all? And how did it become so widespread? (Spoiler: more tickets are being sold!). For answers, skip to the video essay below:

Who made this?

This video of how American International Pictures marketed their movies backwards is from: Andrew Saladinowhich the Texas-based Royal Ocean Film Society† You can browse their back catalog of videos on their Vimeo account here. If Vimeo isn’t your speed, you can follow them here on YouTube.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior staff member at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How’d They Do That? and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer. Meg has been raving about John Boorman’s ‘Excalibur’ on Twitter can be found here: @TheWorstNun† (she her).