From The Nan Movie to Fun with Dick and Jane, ads for comedies nearly always follow one distinctive style. Why is this and when did it start? The humble bus shelter may have the answer

There is one rule behind every movie poster you have ever seen. And it’s not: “Superheroes must stare determinedly into the distance.” It is this: the billing block, the list of cast and crew at the bottom, must be in a typeface that is at least 15% of the size of the film title’s lettering. In 2005, when he was leading the advertising campaign for the Jim Carrey comedy Fun With Dick and Jane, William Loper didn’t like that.

The guideline, which is there to ensure billings are actually legible, annoyed Loper because it meant that if he wanted to make a film’s title larger and more eye-catching, he had to make the billing block larger too. But the then executive vice-president of advertising at Sony Pictures spotted a loophole. It was the average height of each letter in the title that counted. So he made just one word in the Carrey comedy’s title huge and bright red: FUN. “We cheated,” he says.

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