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Behind-the-Scenes of the Reel Art at the Norton Museum

He loved the cinema. Even though he is 29-years-old, Wesley Douglas felt like a 10-year-old when he would walk through a lobby seeing posters for upcoming releases, going through the door, and seeing the big screen. He’d get there early to snag his favorite seat, hugging his family size popcorn. He’d allow himself a few slurps of pop during the trailers. But other than that, he just waited for movies to start and he appreciated everything about the art form.

Movie posters are meant to grab your attention in seconds while still providing a sense of plot within a single image. It’s the world, stars, and story on a single image of art and it’s Lights, Paper, Action over at the West Palm Beach Norton Museum of Art.

Behind-the-Scenes of the Reel Art at the Norton Museum

Running until October 19, ‘Coming Soon’ is the new exhibit at the Norton Museum of Art that’s showing museum-goers some reel art. Titled ‘Coming Soon: Film Posters from Dwight M. Cleveland’, the exhibition features 215 movie posters from the U.S. and other countries from the early 1900s to the 1980s. The movie posters come from the 3,000 plus collection of Dwight Cleveland by Matthew Bird of the Rhode Island School of Design and Norton Assistant Curator J. Rachel Gustafson. It’s the largest museum exhibit of classic movie posters representing comedies, Westerns, musicals, dramas, science-fiction, and classics such as, ‘Casablanca’, ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Woman’, and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. The exhibit not only shows one collector’s passion, but a walkthrough of the history of movie posters, pop culture, and cinema history.


When Matt Marber isn’t watching his favorite movie ‘Akeelah and the Bee’ or what he calls, “Dramas that make you cry,” Marber believes this exhibit can inform the younger generation.

“I think younger generations might not appreciate movie posters when compared to the older generation because the older generation had fewer forms of media to rely on,” said Marber. “Back then you had to capture someone’s interest with effective use of colors and all that and I think the younger generation will learn stuff like that here.”

A satisfaction, as if having completed a deeply, personally needed action; expressed by the slightest curve at the mouth’s corner and youthful confidence worn in a slight raise of the eyebrow above a quizzical, joyful eye.

Marber shimmied his way across the glossy tile. Stopping occasionally to look at such movie posters of ‘Shanghai Express’ (1932), ‘King Kong’ (1933), and ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (1950), Marber stares in awe. As he walks, his blood seems to wake up his brain when he saw his favorite movie poster of the day.

“Dustin Hoffman, Midnight Cowboy,” said Marber. “I love movies and it’s a longer way to be invested in a story rather than something shorter like a TV show.”

Visiting West Palm with his family from Trinidad is Wesley Douglas. When 29-year-old Douglas isn’t catching up on his favorite action movies starring Jason Statham, Douglas appreciates how movies can take us out of our everyday lives.

“Movies offer an unrealistic version of life, stories and stuff that are unimaginable,” said Douglas.

Douglas’ favorite poster that day was 007 James Bond. “Growing up everyone wanted to be a superspy and a version of him,” said Douglas.

Douglas believes that movie posters have to immediately set up a tone in which an audience can engage with.

“It shows the sense of the art and movie posters give you an image of the tone you’ll see,” said Douglas.

Douglas mentioned if he were to design his own movie poster, it would be for an action flick featuring Denzel Washington because Washington is phenomenal.

The way she lifts her lips upward when eying these films and the way her dimples crinkle. She smiles softly while looking at each film poster individually.

“I really enjoy the poster exhibit and I love the history behind it and how it portrays the time period,” said Abby Hamm.

Hamm, whose favorite movie is ‘You’ve Got Mail’ (1998), is a fan of the foreign film posters.

“I enjoy the movie posters from other countries because I enjoy seeing how they depicted the same movie in a different light,” said Hamm.

Behind-the-Scenes of the Reel Art at the Norton Museum

Foreign film posters of American movies are some of the most unique according to exhibition notes, many of these are artist, such as the ones in Poland, didn’t even see the movies they were assigned. This provided the artist with a clean creative slate to have free range when designing these posters. That may explain why some of the posters, such as the Polish poster for ‘Dirty Dancing’ look more like a horror flick rather than a drama.

Hamm said her favorite poster from the exhibit is ‘Pinocchio’ (1940) and Hamm believes these posters still speak for an audience today.

With the movie posters in the exhibit we even see how the times haven’t changed,” said Hamm. “We talk about how bad things are in our society now and those same things are depicted in and through the movie art.”

Hamm also mentioned how nowadays they depict celebrities more on posters rather than the actual art, tone, and plot. But she is still a fan of films today and the last movie and movie poster she saw and enjoyed was ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’.

Hamm ended by saying, “You cannot look at these movie posters and deny that they aren’t real art.”

‘Coming Soon: Posters From the Dwight M. Cleveland Collection’ runs through October 29 at the Norton Museum of Art, located at 1450 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Admission costs $15-$18 and is free on Fridays and Saturdays. You may call (561)832-5196 or visit norton.org for more information.

Pictures By Nile Fortner

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Behind-the-Scenes of the Reel Art at the Norton Museum

Article's Author: Nile Fortner
Published in: life

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