In the days before multiplexes, movie theaters generally only had one screen and one movie. To boost ticket sales, studios printed paper advertisements of their films to entice potential audience members.

One of the more collectible forms of these ads was the lobby card, a small piece of card stock that theaters posted in their lobbies to promote a featured film. In a sense, the lobby card was the small relative of the movie poster.

The first lobby cards, introduced around 1910, measured eight by 10 inches and were printed in black and white. Eventually, with advances in heliotype and photogelatin techniques, these cards had three colors (blue, yellow, and pink). Other cards were hand-colored using a stencil.

The eight- by 10-inch cards quickly gave way to 11- by 14-inch cards, which became known as the “standard” size. In the 1920s, a “jumbo” size was introduced which measured 14 by 17 inches. Finally, the “mini” size was introduced in the 1930s as a rebirth of the eight by 10 size (another version was printed on eight- by 14-inch stock).

Jumbo cards were printed on their own, not as part of a series, but mini and standard lobby cards generally came in sets of eight, though sets of nine, 12, and even 16 or more were not uncommon. The first card in these sets was almost always the title card, which included an attention-grabbing image alongside the film’s title, slogan, and main acting credits. As a notable exception, Paramount never printed title cards.

Following the title card were several “scene” cards, which featured still shots from the film. The first two or three scene cards generally promoted the major stars; the two or three after that usually showed minor actors.

The last card or two in the set are known today as “dead cards,” a phrase coined by movie-art collectors because these cards are generally the least desirable in the set. These c...

All of these cards were numbered in the order they were supposed to appear in the series. Before the 1960s, a card’s identifying number could be found in the corner of the artwork. In the ’60s, the number was moved to the bottom border of the card.

Collectors generally prize lobby cards based on the order they appeared in a set—title cards are considered the most valuable, followed by those with major actors, those with minor actors, and finally the dead cards. Collectors generally only bother with dead cards when they are trying to complete a full set.

Autographed lobby cards are particularly desirable, as are cards from old classics like “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951). Lobby cards from Disney films are also very collectible.

In the mid-1980s, lobby cards stopped being produced in America due to the rise of multi-screen movie theaters. If a theater was showing a dozen or more films at the same time, small lobby cards no longer made sense as a viable marketing strategy. Lobby cards are still produced for foreign film markets, however, so some collectors obtain lobby cards for new films from abroad.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Non Sports Cards: Tobacco, Gum and Candy

Non Sports Cards: Tobacco, Gum and Candy

Tom Boblitt moderates this extremely deep, collaborative site dedicated to non-sports cards (tobacco, gum and candy… [read review or visit site]

Ephemera Blog

Ephemera Blog

Marty Weil's wide-ranging, in-depth blog on ephemera, including lots of great interviews with ephemera collectors. … [read review or visit site]

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

If you're a Steve McQueen fan, this site can't be beat. Roger Harris has put together a definitive collection of Mc… [read review or visit site]

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

If you're the type who likes watching the titles and credits at the beginning of movies, you'll love this site. Ste… [read review or visit site]

Ephemera Society of America

Ephemera Society of America

Great reference on ephemera... includes examples and descriptions of various ephemera categories, selected special … [read review or visit site]

Cinema Treasures

Cinema Treasures

This user-contributed database of classic movie theaters currently lists over 17,000 theaters worldwide. Browse by … [read review or visit site]

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Dave Mackey's filmography and title card gallery for 35 years of Warner Bros. cartoons. Browsable by year or alphab… [read review or visit site]

Steves Disney Collection

Steves Disney Collection

Steve Lee’s large collection of original Disney art: pencil drawings from animated features produced during W… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Silent Film.....the White Sister........lillian Gish........1923Roy Rogers (autographed) Gabby Hayes, Dale Evans HeldoradoThe Arizonian Original 1935 Title Lobby Card 11 X 14 Richard Dix Margot GrahameLimelight Movie Lobby Card Set Of 8 Charles Chaplin Claire Bloom 1952Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho R1965 Original 11x14 Lobby Card #3Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho R1965 Original 11x14 Lobby Card #7Rare Lobby Card Elmer Fudd Bugs Bunny Merrie Melodie Cartoon 7x9 Photo1940's Lobby Card 1944 The Uninvited, Milland And Hussey #1Fifty Shades Of Grey - Lobby Cards Set Of 4 - Jamie Dornan, Dakota JohnsonSan Antonio Original Lobby Card 11 X 14 Errol Flynn Alexis Smith 1945Robin Hood Of The Range Movie Lobby Cards Charles Starrett Western 19431962 Columbia Godzilla Mothra Original Title Lobby Card Famous Monsters Fine+! Huge Lot Of 220 Movie Stills Lobby Cards - Eastwood - Laurel & Hardy - Many MoreRare~1973 James Bond 007 Original Large Lobby Card~live And Let Die~good Cond!The Devil Dancer 1927 Lot Of 4 Lobby Cards Silent Film United Artists Gilda GrayPrivate Buckaroo Movie Lobby Card Set Of 8 Andrews Sisters Musical 1942Her Twelve Men Movie Title Lobby Card & The Women Lobby Card Greer Garson 1954Rare 1955 Universal Sci-fi "tarantula" Original Lobby Card #2 Vf-!1940's Lobby Card 1944 The Uninvited, Milland And Hussey #2High Noon 1952 Lobby Card 11 X 14 Inch Gary CooperVintage Comedy Of Terrors Lobby Card Boris Karloff Vincent Price Peter Lorre Operation Petticoat Original 1959 Title Card Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, ComedyRiver Lady Original 1948 Title Lobby Card Yvonne De Carlo, Dan Duryea, WesternAct Of Violence Original 1949 Lobby Card #5 Van Heflin, Janet Leigh, Film NoirAndy Warhol's Dracula Original 1974 Lobby Card Set 8 Paul Morrissey Horror Film1977 James Bond 007 Orig Large Lobby Card~the Spy Who Loved Me~14x36~vgcOh Lady Lady ! - Silent Title Card - Bebe DanielsA Homespun Vamp - Silent Title Card - May McavoySan Antonio Original Lobby Card 11 X 14 Errol Flynn Alexis Smith 19452 Lullaby Of Broadway Doris Day Lobby Cards Plus 3 Pieces Sheet MusicSpringtime In The Rockies 1937 Original Lobby Card 11 X 14 Gene AutryLed Zeppelin - Song Remains The Same - Original Lobby Card, Mexico, 1976, GuitarSci-fi Serial Lost Planet Original 50s Lobby Title Card Trapped In A Cosmojet Gene Autry / Smiley Burnette The Old CorralThe Far Horizons (1955) Charlton Heston * Fred Macmurray * Orig 8 Card Lobby SetCattle Drive Movie Lobby Cards Joel Mccrea Dean Stockwell Western 1951Some Came Running Movie Lobby Card Set Of 8 Frank Sinatra Dean Martin Drama 1959Star Wars Original 8 X 10 Lobby Card 1977 Han Solo And Chewbacca 1st Release Isn't It Romantic Original 1948 Lobby Card #8 Veronica Lake, Mona Freeman ComedyKing Kong Original 1976 Lobby Card #1 Jeff Bridges, Jessica Lange, AdventureThe Hard Way Original 1943 Lobby Card Da Lupino, Joan Leslie, Dennis MorganClipped Wings Movie Lobby Card Set Of 8 Leo Gorcey Huntz Hall Comedy 19531958 Universal Sci-fi "monster On The Campus" Original Lobby Card Set Fine+!California Straight Ahead; John Wayne; 1937Lot 38 Vintage Western Movie Lobby Card Poster Wild Bill Roy Rogers Tex WilliamsLove Taps - Silent Title Card - Monty Banks - Boxing8x Vintage Originals Lobby Cards - Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia - 1974San Antonio Original Lobby Card 11 X 14 Errol Flynn Alexis Smith 1945San Antonio Original Lobby Card 11 X 14 Errol Flynn Alexis Smith 1945 Gene Autry The Big Sombrero No Highway In The Sky Original 1951 Title Card James Stewart, Marlene DietrichRare Dan Aykroyd And John Belushi In The Blues Brothers 8 X 10 Lobby CardsThree Stooges Meet Hercules Original 1961 Title Lobby Card, Moe, Larry, CurlyMokey ,original Lobby Card ,tc, Bobby Blake, Mgm, Donna Reed, Dan Dailey Buck Jones Desert Vengeance Title CardVintage 1977 Star Wars Lobby Card Luke, Leia, & HanSaturday Night Fever Orig 1977 Lobby Card #1 Featuring John Travolta, MusicalBlondie Takes A Vacation * Penny Singleton * Original 8 Card Lobby SetDouble Alibi * Wayne Morris Thriller * Original 8 Card Lobby SetThe Iron Petticoat Movie Lobby Card Set Of 8 Bob Hope Katharine Hepburn 1956