A movie poster overview for the beginning collector

Just about anyone who walks by a movie theater will see at least one poster hanging in the window advertising what’s playing.  These posters will eventually come down when new movies are released.

From 1940 to 1984, the National Screen Service produced the posters for the film studios.  The theaters would return the posters to the NSS so that they could be sent to other theaters.  During this time, movies were kept in the theaters for several years.  Because the posters were sent out to several theaters, they were often in rough shape when they were finally pulled from circulation.

Movie posters come in so many different sizes and varieties, it can make your head spin like a cheap horror movie villain’s head!  Here’s a brief breakdown:

Lobby cards—these were popular in the 1910’s and 1920’s and are small advertisements for the movies.  Lobby cards were usually produced in a set of 8 and hung all around the lobby of a theater (this is how they got their name),  and they tended to be black and white scenes from the movie that were often hand-tinted with some color.   These were discontinued in 1985 in the United States.  This type is very collectible for the fact that they are small–usually 11 inches by 14 inches or 8 inches by 10 inches.  They don’t require much display space.


Teaser Poster—these were sent to a theater to advertise a movie that was about to be released.  This type of poster is also known as an advance poster.  There really wasn’t too much information put on the poster.  It had the title, some of the people starring in the movie, and sometimes even a tagline for the movie.  Teaser poster sometimes were released way in advance of the movie to drive up hype, but occasionally funding ran short, and the project was shelved.  It would pay off to see if the movie was actually made if you buy a teaser poster.  Even if the movie was shelved, it could be more valuable if it featured a now-famous actor or director in one of their first movies.

Character Poster—this poster highlights one character from a movie currently playing.  Often, these are character’s the public is already familiar with (the movie releasing can often be a sequel or part of a series).  For example, a character poster features Freddie Krueger from the Nightmare On Elm Street, or even Jason Voorhees of the Friday The 13th movies.

As with any collectible, be sure to do your research.  Posters are often reprinted if the movie is a smash hit (like Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, or even The Wizard Of OZ).  You could pick up the reprints at quite a few major retailers, or even online.  When you have an authentic poster, especially from one of these areas, they can really have some good value.

What kinds of movie posters would you proudly display on your wall?

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