There is a great deal of history behind movie posters and movie poster collecting. Jules Cheret, who created 2 movie posters in the 1890’s, was the artist given credit for creating the first movie posters. By the end of the first decade of the 1900’s, movies had become a great source of public entertainment. In this time period, the movie poster would become a standard size known as the one sheet measuring 27″ x 41″.
In the early days, the names of actors did not appear on the posters, which the movie studios liked, because it meant paying actors less money. It was in this early period in movie history, however, that movie studios realized movie stars were as much of an attraction to the moviegoer as the movie itself. Thus, the movie star was born, and movie posters began showcasing actors’ names along with the title of the movie.
By the 1920’s, the golden age of silent movies, movie posters became more artistic and spectacular, with accomplished artists being hired by movie studios to paint portraits of the stars for posters. By the late 1920’s, movie poster images became sharper due to a new printing process developed by the Morgan Litho Company.
In the 1930’s, also known in the movie industry as “The Golden Age of Movies”, another style of movie poster was created, the half sheet. Major movies would sometimes get more than the two styles. However, due to the depression, many movie materials were being created more cheaply, causing a loss of quality in movie posters.
The dawn of World War II in 1941 saw many of the movie stars heading off to war and war was the major theme of movies at that time. The movie industry cut advertising costs and used cheaper paper for posters due to the paper shortage of wartime.
By the 1970’s, movie posters used photography, occasionally using drawing and painting styles. Movie posters at this time were being printed on a clay-coated paper, which gave them a glossy finish. Star Wars and Star Trek posters were the most popular posters of the time and are still collected by many today.
In the 1980’s, the age of the special effects blockbuster, the mini sheet was invented, and video stores became popular, thus the video store poster was created. Today, reprints of movie posters are mass-produced and sold in many stores or are just a click away on the Internet.There are several types of movie posters. Because of their rarity, the avid movie poster collector has concentrated on movie poster or theater art. These are the posters that are delivered and displayed by the movie theaters and then intended to be thrown away. Another type of movie poster is the commercial poster, which is mass-produced for direct sale to the public. Video posters are distributed to video rental stores for advertising material. Cable and TV posters are use as promotional material for TV stations for their programming. Like theater art, video posters and cable and TV posters are not produced for the public. Although not as valuable as theater art, these types of posters are still popular among collectors. Special promotion posters promote a movie along with a product. Finally, there are anniversary issues, limited editions, and special releases that are released in limited quantities and are gaining favor with the theatre art collector. Other types of movie posters include advance posters that promote a movie well ahead of the movie’s release. The award poster, which indicates that a movie has won an Academy award. The combo poster, advertising two movies instead of just one. The popular double-sided poster that has art on both sides, with the artwork reversed on one side of the poster. There are featurette posters highlighting short films or cartoons, review posters for when a movie gets a good review, serial posters for movie serials, and special distribution posters.
With the popularity of movie posters has come the necessity to create various sizes of posters. The first and most widely used poster is the one sheet, which is usually 27″ x 41″. The subway, also known as the two sheet, is larger but not exactly two times the size of the one sheet. The 3 sheet is three times the size of the one sheet measuring at 41″ x 81″. The 6 sheet is six times the size of the one sheet measuring of 81″ x 81″. There is also a 12 sheet approximately twelve times the size of a one sheet, and the colossal sized 24 sheet measuring 246″ x by 108″. Other sizes include the mini sheet, which is usually much smaller than the one sheet and comes in a variety of sizes, and the stock sheet issued for cartoons or other shorts.
As with all collectibles, condition is a great factor when placing a value on posters. A movie poster’s value is determined by demand, rarity, and condition. Poster collectors use the same grade system used by comic book collectors: mint (perfect), near mint, very good, good, fair, and poor.
For those who want to be serious movie poster collectors, you will need to know some things about taking care of your movie poster art.
Tips to retain the total collectable value of movie posters
Never alter the appearance of a poster. Do not fold, bend, tear, or punch holes in it even to hang it on your wall.
Never place a movie poster in direct sunlight. UV lights can also be harmful.
Don’t write on your poster, even on the back. Marks on the back can sometimes be seen from the other side, taking away from the poster’s value.
Never put tape on the front of a poster even to repair tears. If you do use tape, use acid free tape available from an art supply shop, and place the tape on the back. For expensive movie art take it to a professional to be restored. Posters can be restored the same way rare comic books are professionally restored.
When shipping posters use thick poster tubes or bubble envelopes.
For long time storage, frame, or place the poster in a plastic bag or tube, and keep it in a cool dry climate.
When framing a poster do not dry mount it, and use an acid free backing board.