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Archive for the Category "Movie Titles"

Donut Bagel and Other Title Lessons Jan 21

Donut Bagel

So I was driving along the road the other night and noticed a brightly lit fluorescent awning for a new food establishment called: Donut Bagel.

As I zipped passed it, many conflicting thoughts sprung to mind:

- It has the word “donut” in the name, so it must be a bakery selling sweets.

- No wait a minute. It also has the word “bagel” in it, so it must be a health food eatery.

- Just a tick — it has both those words in the name, so it must be some unholy, deep fried, sprouted abomination.

Some time shortly thereafter my brain exploded.

Restaurant names are like movie titles

I don’t know how successful ye olde Donut Bagel shoppe will be, but if it doesn’t survive in a world not yet ready for such brazen food items, I’ll be willing to bet it’s because its name (and therefore its message) was confusing. It doesn’t immediately answer the question that all restaurants, and movie titles, need to answer:

What is it?

When we’re driving by a billboard at 60 MPH, we don’t have time to read the fine print, or to assess all of the imagery. Often times, we only have time to process the title.

If the title doesn’t evoke an “Oh I get it — that sounds cool!” response in us, odds are the movie isn’t going to do so well.

State of Play — what? Body of Lies — huh? Despite both of those Russell Crowe movies being quite good, they did very poorly at the box office1.

It has to be S.M.A.R.T.

There’s lots of great advice in Stephanie Palmer’s book: Good In A Room. One of the best sections talks about how movie titles must be S.M.A.R.T.


S: short (the fewer words in the title the better)

M: memorable (something that stands out or has an element of drama)

A: accurate (correctly representing your proposition)

R: repeatable (sounds good when spoken out loud)

T: tonally appropriate (in accordance with the genre of the project)

Make sure you run your movie titles through that criteria when deciding on one.

If we look at Donut Bagle under that filter it misses out big on the last one — being tonally appropriate. I’m a health nut, so I have no idea whether I’d be happy or horrified if I walked in there.

Say you heard about a movie called Slaughterhouse. You’d probably think it was a horror movie. But what if it were actually the story of an 1820′s school teacher, Edith Slaughter, who taught orphans how to read and write? The producers may not be appealing to the right demographic with that title.

This is a tough climate — for scripts and for restaurants. Your title is at least something you can control.

Fare thee well Donut Bagel. Fare thee well.


  1. According to Box Office Mojo, State of Play did $37,017,955 domestically. Body of Lies did $39,394,666.
Category: Movie Titles  | 4 Comments
One Letter Off Nov 10

Earlier this year, Blake Snyder held a contest that asked people to take a well-known movie title and change just one letter to come up with a funny new concept and logline.

A couple of examples:

THE HEN COMMANDMENTS
A meek Idaho chicken, on the verge of being slaughtered along with the rest of the animals in her barn, must evade an evil rancher and lead her flock to the promised land – an animal sanctuary in California.

BACK TO THE SUTURE
While undergoing surgery for a brain tumor, an underachieving skateboarder travels back in time and must help a college stoner finish medical school, otherwise the surgical genius who’s saving his life will never exist.

I didn’t win, but there were hundreds of hilarious entries that I’d actually like to see made into movies… or at least movie posters.

Well my prayers were apparently answered even before the contest began. The folks at Worth1000.com have had an ongoing contest to Photoshop movie posters with that exact concept for years, such as…

Enjoy more hilarious entries here:

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