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Custom Printing: A Movie Standee Production Case Study

After seven years of installing standees at movie theaters, I received contact information for a potential print brokering client who needed standees both printed and installed. This was an intriguing opportunity, since I have experience in buying and selling commercial printing, as well as an understanding of the marketing goals and graphic techniques involved in producing large format print signage.

So I did some preliminary work prior to approaching my potential client. I checked out his website to see what kind of films he had produced, and I contacted one of the designers of the movie standees my fiancee and I had been installing.

Regarding the standee design studio I approached, I chose this particular vendor for a few reasons.

    1. After seeing this company’s corporate logo on labels on the backs of standees for seven movie studios over a seven-year period, I was highly impressed. This company was established and its promotional design work was well regarded by a substantial number of movie studios.


    1. I also relied upon my own eyes and marketing knowledge. I had checked out the design studio’s website, and I thought the graphic design work was both aesthetically superior and persuasive from a marketing standpoint.


    1. It just so happens that my potential printing client’s office is a twenty-minute drive from this design studio. Although I am on the East Coast, both my client and the design studio are almost next to one another on the West Coast. Therefore, I will be able to get my client’s immediate approval (or disapproval) of the firm for his own specific standee-creation needs based on his having met the principals of the firm and having seen their work, not only online on their website but also in person.


    1. I also chose this design studio because of its primary focus on marketing and movie standees. I know a lot of the printers on the East Coast that could do the same job (if I provided them with the specifications), but I wanted a firm for which standee design is a daily venture, a firm that will know how to design the most effective marketing products while containing costs.


  1. I knew the standee design firm would understand the steps following print production and finishing. They would be able to package the standees and ship them to movie theaters. More importantly, they would know how to get movie theaters to accept delivery of the standees, and they would understand the process of merchandising (installing the standees in the theaters). What they couldn’t do they could subcontract. Or at least they could provide advice regarding all aspects of the process. In fact, they happen to work with the company for which my fiancee and I install standees in movie theaters, and they also work with a number of competing installers.

My Assumptions Regarding the Client

I have only had minimal contact with the prospective client to date. However, I have seen his website, and I understand that in comparison to the design studio’s other clients, he may require only a short press run. Granted, this is an assumption. However, I know that the movie standees my fiancee and I install are shipped to hundreds of (or more) movie theaters across the country because we often receive the delivery manifests.

This need not be a problem. After all, standees can be offset printed or digitally printed based on their quantity, and I had learned from the design studio that they worked with a number of large format print providers. Presumably, this design firm had access to digital and offset printing equipment plus laminating equipment (for attaching the press sheets to the fluted cardboard standee substrate and for coating the press sheets) plus die cutting equipment (for cutting out the standees).

My Contact with the Client

Based on my research and assumptions, I had a discussion with my client over the phone. I suggested that he consider a flatcard design for the standee. This is a particular style of movie standee that includes a large (up to 6-foot by 9-foot) flat image with a cardboard easel back that keeps it upright. The edges are die cut and turned inward (and then screwed together) to give about a 2” depth to the overall flat, poster-like, large format print presentation.

What I thought might appeal to my client is that such a large image provides a lot of bang for the buck. It’s almost as large as a banner, so the viewer gets an image that takes up her/his entire field of vision. But from a manufacturing standpoint, it’s relatively inexpensive to make a flatcard. It involves limited die cutting. And when it’s folded (in quarters) in the box, it provides a relatively light package. It’s not only easy to install a flatcard quickly, but it costs less than many other standee designs to ship. And shipping can add up.

Finally, I encouraged my client to consider this format because it is standard. Many standees have unique designs with movie characters die cut and then attached to a large, overall structure. The scoring, folding, pattern gluing, and die cutting are all unique. So the movie studio has to pay for all of the dies required for the die cutting. In contrast (and I have confirmed this with the design studio), using pre-made dies from prior flatcards will save money. My client will not have to pay for all of the preparation from scratch.

However, if my client wants something more ornate, the images on the perimeter of the flat card design can be made to extend out of the rectangular format (as though they are coming off the large format print poster). This will require extra die cutting but not as much as if the overall base format were not a flatcard.

Or my client can choose to add depth. By die cutting slits in the front of the flat card graphic panel, my client can add “lugs.” These are attachments (movie characters, for instance), that seem to come out of the background, adding an element of depth to the overall image. Again, this would cost more, but it would start with the standard base of the flatcard.

So my client has options, and the design studio has approved all of the ones just described. The design studio is also fully capable of participating in (or coordinating) any or all of the steps in the process.

What happens next? My client will send the marketing art to me, and we can discuss whether this initial plan will work, or whether it will need to be adjusted.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

    1. If you don’t know how to do something, consult a pro. I knew a little about standees from installing them but not enough to coordinate the whole job. So I found a studio that excels in this one area.


    1. Find ways to build on the work of others. This is true for pocket folders or any other die cutting job. A standard design will cost less overall than a totally unique one. If you can use a pre-made set of dies, you can still make your printed product look completely different from the competition.


  1. When you’re designing a 3D promotional product, consider the physical requirements of the design (for instance, make sure the design isn’t top heavy, so it won’t fall over), the overall graphic appearance, the marketing strategy, and the costs related to print production and finishing. But don’t forget all the steps that follow production, such as packaging, shipping, and installation.

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