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    

"the Cat And The Canary"-orig Lobby Card-gale Sondergaard-bob Hope-cast-horror"voodoo Man"-orig Lobby Card-bela Lugosi-george Zucco-john Carradine-monogram"voodoo Man"-orig Lobby Card-john Carradine-gal Zombies-monogram-horrorThe Set-up Original 1949 Title Lobby Card Robert Ryan, Audrey Totter, Film NoirRare Original Universal 'the Raven" Lobby Card 1935Invasion Of The Saucer Men (1957) - Original Us Lobby Card #6 - Cabbage-headsJames Bond 007 Original 1964 From Russia With Love Lobby Card #5Cary Grant / Myrna Loy / Melvin Douglas Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream HouseOriginal 1961 The Misfits Lobby Card #6 Marilyn Monroe Clark Gable Monty CliftWhat Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Orig Lobby Card #5 Bette Davis, Joan CrawfordHouse Of Dark Shadows Original Lobby Card #2 Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, HorrorOne Hundred And One Dalmations Original Rare 1961 Lobby Card Disney AnimationThe Enforcer French Movie Lobby Cards Clint Eastwood & Harry Guardino 1977 Film Noir Classic Edmond O'brien / Beverly Garland D.o.a.Five Little Peppers And How They Grew Orig 1939 Lobby Card Edith Fellows, DramaNo Way Out Original 1950 Title Card Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell, Film Noir Baseball Lupe Velez Ladies' Day Title CardBlondie Has Servant Trouble Orig 1940 Lobby Card Penny Singleton, Arthur LakeDark Rapture Rare Vintage Movie Lobby Cards Documentary Denis-roosevelt 1937Song Of The South R-72 Lobby Card Walt Disney Animation Br'er Rabbit, Br'er FoxFive Little Peppers At Home Original 1940 Lobby Card Edith Fellows, Family Drama"13" Original 1966 Lobby Card #7 Sharon Tate, Deborah Kerr, David Niven, HorrorRare!! Set Of 8 - Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes 8 X 10 1972 Lobby CardsJason And The Argonauts Original 1963 Title Card Todd Armstrong Action Adventure Buck Jones The Fighting Ranger Title CardGet Yourself A College Girl Original 1964 Lobby Card #8 Featuring, The StandellsWhite Witch Doctor Original 1953 Title Lobby Card Susan Hayward, Robert MitchumBlondie * Penny Singleton & Arthur Lake * Lot Of 4 Original Lobby CardsThe Big Red One - Lee Marvin-uk Front Of House Still SetJohnny O'clock Original 1946 Lobby Card #5 Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes, Film NoirThe Unearthly 1957 Horror Allison Hayes Myron Healey Lobby Card1925 Stella Maris Mary Philbin Original Lobby Take Her-- I'll Manage Somehow!Mini-skirt Mob Orig 1968 Lobby Card #3 Jeremy Slate, Diane Mcbain, Female BikersTokyo Rose Original 1946 Lobby Card #2 Byron Barr, Osa Massen, War DramaFive Little Peppers In Trouble Orig 1940 Lobby Card Edith Fellows, Family DramaThe Mad Magician 1954 Vincent Price Horror Lobby Card VfnWalt Disney's Pinocchio - 1940 Oversized Complete Nm Four Card Lobby Poster SetStepin Fetchit Original 1939 Lobby Card Zenobia Oliver Hardy W/o LaurelLucille Ball Original 1940s Lobby Card Best Foot Forward Military AcademyBonnie And Clyde Original 1967 Lobby Card #8 Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Crime"autographed" Rin Tin Tin, 5" X 7" Photo, 1927, Ken-l-ration, World Famous Dog Sunset Carson Bandits Of The Badlands Title CardThe Whip Hand (1951) Germ Warfare Sci-fi Anti-commie * Original 8 Card Lobby SetSlaughterhouse Five Original Drive-in Movie Poster Michael Sacks Kurt VonnegutS.o.b. Movie Lobby Card Set Lot La Cage Aux Folles Ii, Carbon Copy & More '76-85Tembo Orig 1952 Lobby Card #1 Howard Hill, World's Greatest Archer, AdventureIncredible 2 Headed Transplant Orig Lobby Card #2 Bruce Dern, Pat Priest, HorrorRuth Terry 1940s Original Lobby Card Roy Rogers Film Western CowgirlsHell's Belles Orig 1969 Lobby Card #5 Jeremy Slate, Adam Roarke, Biker, ActionThe Hard Ride Orig Lobby Card #2 Robert Fuller, Sherry Bain, Motorycycle ActionBorn To Be Bad Original 1950 Lobby Card #7 Joan Fontaine, Robert Ryan, Film NoirGuns Girls And Gangsters Original 1959 Lobby Card 8 Mamie Van Doren, Crime DramaJune Wilkinson 1960 Career Girl Sexy Original 11x14 Lobby CardLucille Ball 1940 You Can't Fool Your Wife Original 11x14 Lobby Card Nelson Eddy The Chocolate SoldierMovie Lobby Cards- 1954 Caine Mutiny Humphrey Bogart Fred Macmurray 7 Cards!Till The End Of Time Original 1946 Title Card Dorothy Mcguire, Guy Madison, WarTom Mix "circus Ace" (1927) Original Lobby CardStar Trek, Wrath Of Khan, Original 1982 Enterprise Mini Lc #2Wild Wheels Original 1969 Lobby Card #8 Don Epperson, Casey Kasem, Biker Action