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A film poster is a poster used to advertise a film. There may be several versions for one film, with variations in regards to size, content and country of production of the poster. It usually contains an image with text, though this has evolved over time from image-free bill posters through to the highly visual digital productions of today. The text usually contains the film title in large lettering and often the names of the main actors. It may also include a tag line, the name of the director, names of characters, the release date, etc.

Film posters are displayed inside and on the outside of movie theaters, and elsewhere on the street or in shops. The same images would appear in a film exhibitor's pressbook and may also be used on websites, DVD-packaging, flyers, advertisements in newspapers and magazines, etc.

Use of such posters goes back to the earliest public exhibitions of film, where they began as outside placards listing the programme of (short) films to be shown inside the hall or movie theater. By the early 1900s, they began to feature illustrations of a scene from each individual film or an array of overlaid images from several scenes. Other movie posters have used artistic interpretations of a scene or even the theme of the film, represented in a wide variety of artistic styles. Movie posters are produced in a large number of sizes to meet various advertising needs.

Poster for Rudolph Valentino in Blood and Sand, 1922

Contents

History

Card for the 1915 film, Birth of a Nation

Originally, film posters were produced for the exclusive use by the theatres exhibiting the film the poster was created for, and the copies of the posters were required to be returned to the distributor after the film left the theatre. In the United States, posters were usually returned to a nation-wide operation called the National Screen Service (NSS) which printed and distributed most of the film posters for the studios between 1940 and 1984. As an economy measure, the NSS regularly recycled posters that were returned, sending them back out to be used again at another theatre. During this time, a film could stay in circulation for several years, and so many old film posters were badly worn before being retired into storage at an NSS warehouse (most often, they were thrown away when they were no longer needed or had become too worn to be used again). Those posters which were not returned were often thrown away by the theatre owner, but some film posters found their way into the hands of collectors.

Beginning in the 1980s, the American film studios began taking over direct production and distribution of their posters from the National Screen Service and the process of making and distributing film posters became decentralised in that country.

Collecting

The collecting of film memorabilia began with such things as scrap-books, autographs, photographs, and industry magazines, but quickly expanded in the post-World War II era. Collectors began seeking out original advertising material, and the classic "one sheet" film poster became the pinnacle object to own for any given film. Other material, such as lobby cards, other-sized posters, international posters, personality posters, and glass slides also began to become highly sought after. Today, the field of film memorabilia collecting has grown into an internationally recognised community of increasingly serious and financially secure collectors, making it one of the fastest areas of speculation for investment.[citation needed]

After the National Screen Service ceased most of its film-poster printing and distribution operations in 1985, some of the posters which they had stored in warehouses around the United States ended up in the hands of private collectors and film-poster dealers. Today there is a thriving collectibles market in film posters. Some have become very valuable among collectors, with a few rare examples being auctioned for US$500,000 or more. The record price for a poster was set on November 15, 2005 when US$690,000 was paid for a poster of Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis from the Reel Poster Gallery in London.[1] The 1931 Frankenstein 6-sheet poster, of which only 1 copy is known to exist, is considered to be the most valuable film poster in the world.[citation needed]

As a result of market demand, some of the more popular older film posters have been reproduced either under license or illegally. Often there is no indication on these reproductions that they are reproductions, which has led to some problems in the collectibles marketplace.

Today, film posters are generally produced in much larger quantities than necessary to promote a film at the theatres, because they are also sold directly to the public by retailers who purchase them at wholesale prices from the studio distributors or from websites set up by the studio to promote a given film. Because of this, modern posters are not considered rare, and are usually readily available for purchase by collectors.

Types of film poster

Lobby cards

A lobby card of a 1921 Mary Pickford film.

Lobby cards are like posters but smaller, usually 11" × 14" (but also 8" × 10" before 1930). Lobby cards are collected and their value depends on their age, quality and popularity. Typically issued in sets of eight, each featuring a different scene from the film. In unusual circumstances, some releases were promoted with larger (12 cards) or smaller sets (6 cards). "The Running Man" set, for example had only six (6) cards, whereas the earlier classic "The Italian Job" set spanned twelve photographs. Films released by major production companies experiencing financial difficulties sometimes had no accompanying "lobby set" at all. Perhaps one of the most notable examples of this scenario would be Michael Mann's cult classic Manhunter (1986), for which no USA lobby card set was ever printed.

In the United Kingdom, sets of lobby cards are more typically referred to as "Front Of House" cards. However, this can sometimes also refer to black and white press photographs - in addition to the more typical 8 × 10 inch lobby card style promotional devices.

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University holds a collection of lobby cards from silent western films that date between 1910 and 1930. [2]

Teaser poster

A teaser poster or advance poster is an early promotional film poster, containing a basic image or design without revealing too much information such as the plot, theme, and characters. The purpose is to incite awareness and generate hype for the film. A tagline may be included. There are some instances when teaser posters are issued long in advance before the film goes into production, although they are issued during the film development.

See: The teaser poster for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Character posters

For a film with an ensemble cast there may be a set of character posters, each featuring an individual character from the film. Usually it contains the name of the actor/actress, with or without the name of the character played. It may also include a tagline that reflects the quality of the character.

Film poster sizes

Japanese movie poster for Seven Samurai

Film posters come in different sizes and styles depending on the country. The most common are listed below.[3]

United States

  • One sheet, 27 inches by 40 inches (686x1020mm), portrait format

The following sizes were in common use in the United States prior to the mid-1980s, but have since been phased out of production:[citation needed]

  • One sheet, 27 inches by 41 inches (686x1040mm), portrait format (this size is one inch longer than the modern One sheet)
  • Display (aka Half-sheet), 22 inches by 28 inches (559x711mm), landscape format
  • Insert, size 14 inches by 36 inches (356x914mm), portrait format
  • Window Card, 14 inches by 22 inches (356x559mm), portrait format
  • Two sheet, 41 inches by 54 inches (1040x1370mm), either landscape format or portrait format
  • Three sheet, 41 inches by 81 inches (1040x2060mm), portrait format
  • Six sheet, 81 inches by 81 inches (2060x2060mm), a square format, often printed in landscape format
  • Twenty four sheet, 246 inches by 108 inches (6250x2740mm), landscape format often called a billboard

United Kingdom

  • Quad, size 30 inches by 40 inches (762x1020mm), landscape format
  • Double crown, size 20 inches by 30 inches (508x762mm), portrait format
  • One-sheet, size 27 inches by 40 inches (686x1020mm), portrait format
  • Three sheet, size 40 inches by 81 inches (1020x2060mm), portrait format

Australia

  • Daybill, size 13 inches by 30 inches (330x762mm), portrait format (before the 1960s, Daybills were 36 inches long)
  • One sheet, size 27 inches by 40 inches (686x1040mm), portrait format

Billing block

The credits for the film that appear in condensed type on contemporary film posters and other advertising copy are referred to as the billing block.

Notable film-poster artists

Awards

The annual Key Art Awards, sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter, include awards for best film poster in the categories of comedy, drama, action adventure, teaser, and international film. The Hollywood Reporter defines the term "key art" as "the singular, iconographic image that is the foundation upon which a movie's marketing campaign is built."[7] In 2006, the original poster for The Silence of the Lambs was named best film poster "of the past 35 years".[8]

References

  1. ^ "Lang film poster fetches record". BBC News. 2005-11-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4438948.stm. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  2. ^ The Western Silent Films Lobby Cards Collection, 1910-1930. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Retrieved on 2009-07-08.
  3. ^ Movie Poster Art Gallery - Glossary Sizes Accessed 06/Dec/2007
  4. ^ "Tim Hildebrandt". Posterwire.com. June 13, 2006. http://posterwire.com/archives/2006/06/13/tim-hildebrandt/. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  5. ^ "Frank McCarthy". American Art Archives. http://www.americanartarchives.com/mccarthy,f.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  6. ^ "Robert McGinnis". American Art Archives. http://www.americanartarchives.com/mcginnis.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  7. ^ Movie City News (2003-06-23). "Key Art Awards press release". Press release. http://www.moviecitynews.com/Notepad/2003/030623_pr.html. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  8. ^ 'Sin City' place to be at Key Art Awards Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2007-10-07

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