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    

Halloween Ii 2 * 1981 Original Movie Lobby Cards Poster Complete Set Myers MaskWhistling In The Dark (1941) Red Skelton Title CardThe Empire Strikes Back Mini Movie Lobby Card Set Mark Hamill Harrison Ford 1980Orig They Call Her One Eye Mint Cond Lobby Autographed By Christina Lindberg!!!!Arsene Lupin Returns (1938) Melvyn Douglas Title CardJungle Man-eaters Movie Lobby Card Set Johnny Weissmuller As Jungle Jim 1954Gog - 1954 - Title Card & 3 Lobby Cards! Hard To Find! Horror, Sci-fiThe New Audioscopiks Mexican Movie Lobby Cards Short Subject Pete Smith R-1950sLeave Her To Heaven Movie Lobby Card Gene Tierney & Cornel Wilde 1945Alien German Movie Lobby Card Set Of 9 Tom Skerritt & Sigourney Weaver 1979Curse Of The Werewolf Lobby Card Set (universal, 1961) Very Good 4.0 Mp5819Swing Out, Sister Movie Lobby Card Set Rod Cameron & Billie Burke 1945Maurice Chevalier The Way To Love (1933) Lobby CardBlack Zoo Movie Lobby Cards Michael Gough & Jeanne Cooper 1963The Sleeping City Movie Lobby Card Set Richard Conte & Coleen Gray 1950Vintage Business Card For Jerry Lewis, Paramount Studios, HollywoodLe Mans Original 1971 Lobby Card #1 Steve Mcqueen, Action AdventureThe Queen Of Babylon (1956) Rhonda Fleming * Original 8 Card Lobby Set Get Yourself A College Girl Original 1964 Lobby Card #2 Featuring, The Animals Tobacco Card Set, Ogdens, Actors Natural & Character Studies, 1938Slaves Of Babylon Movie Lobby Card Set Richard Conte & Linda Christian 1953Luciana Paluzzi And Camille Keaton Busty Spanish Horror Lc 1972 Tragic CeremonyVintage Lash Larue Lobby Card Set ----the Thundering TrailA String Of Diamonds 1925 Lobby Card- Starring "fearless- The Police Dog "- "fangs Of Fate" 1928 Lobby Card-with "klondike "- German Shepherd Serial Poster"death Fangs" 1929 Lobby Card-with "flash- The German Shepherd" Serial PosterFive Little Peppers And How They Grew, Orig 1939 Lc [edith Fellows]Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed Cushing Veronica Carlson 4 Orig Minis Hammer Charlie Chan In Reno Original 8x10 Photo Still 1939 Sidney TolerLizabeth Scott Photo - Hal Wallis Movie 1947Tumbleweed - Lobby Card # 2 - Audie Murphy, Chill Wills - 1953 Serial Frank Buck Jungle TerrorTobacco Card Set, Gallaher. My Favourite Part, Film Role, Actor, Actress, 1939Diplomatic Courier, Kathy O', Here Come The Marines & More Movie Lobby Card Lot"marlie The Killer" 1928 Lobby Card-with "klondike "- German Shepherd PosterStand Up And Fight Robert Taylor & Florence Rice Original 1939 Lobby CardVintage Tom Mix Movie Lobby Cards Wm.fox "do And Dare" 1921The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) Glenn Ford Western * Original 8 Card Lobby SetState Fair Ann Margret Pat Boone Rodgers Hammerstein Vintage Orig Lobby CardThree Stooges Go Around The World In A Daze Original 1963 Lobby Card ComedyMadame Original 1963 Lobby Card #2 Sexy Sophia Loren, Robert Hossein, RomanceUnique, Kurt Vonnegut's "happy Birthday Wanda June" Signed Lobby Cards Mini-skirt Mob Orig 1968 Lobby Card #4 Jeremy Slate, Diane Mcbain, Female BikersPalm Springs Weekend Original 1963 Lobby Card #2 Troy Donahue, Connie StevensCharlie Chan On Broadway Original 8x10 Photo 1937 Warner Oland Key Luke StillDracula Movie Lobby Card Set Of 4 Frank Langella & Laurence Olivier 1979Come & Get It 1936 Title Card + 5 Lobby Cards! ~ Frances Farmer & Edward Arnold!Detective K-9 1927 Lobby Card- With "fearless- The Police Dog "- Serial Poster1962 Original Bad Day At Black Rock 11x14 Re-released Movie Lobby Card #1 Mgm"rage" Original 1924 Lobby Card- With "lightning- The Police Dog "-serial PosterForeign Intrigue (1956) Robert Mitchum Thriller * Original 8 Card Lobby SetA Dumb Romeo 1924 Lobby Card- Starring "fearless- Dog Detective "- Serial Poster"fangs Of Wolf Heart" 1925 Lobby Card-with "wolf Heart" Serial Poster"fangs Of Destiny" 1927 Lobby Card-with "dynamite- The Wonder Police Dog" "paradise Valley" 1936 Lobby Card-with "zandra The Dog" Serial Poster1962 Original Bad Day At Black Rock Re-released Movie Lobby Card#5 Spencer TracyOne Spy Too Many Orig 1966 Lobby Card #7 Robert Vaughn, David Mccallum, CrimeRun Angel Run Original 1969 Lobby Card #4 William Smith, Valerie Starrett ActionForever Darling Original 1956 Lobby Card #5 Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, ComedyUncle Tom's Cabin Margarita Fischer Original 1958 Re/release Lobby Card