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    

Trade Card Set, Barbers Tea, Cinema & Television Stars, Marilyn Monroe Etc, 1955Loving You Elvis Presley Original Lobby CardTwelve O'clock High Original 1950 Title Card Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, WarSabrina Audrey Hepburn Humphrey Bogart William Holden Original Lobby CardAlfred Hitchcock's €Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb Lobby CardKonga Movie Lobby Card Set Michael Gough & Margo Johns 1961The Charming Deceiver & Roads Of Destiny Movie Lobby Card Lot Alice Calhoun 1921Streets Of Laredo (1949) William Holden Classic * Original 8 Card Lobby SetElmer Gantry Burt Lancaster Jean Simmons 8 Original Lobby Cards 2001 : A Space Odyssey Original 1968 Uk Color Cinerama Mini Lobby Card Rare VfOriginal 1964 Lobby Card Viva Las Vegas Elvis Presley Ann Margret Mgm 14" X 11"The Petty Girl Original 1950 Title Lobby Card Robert Cummings, Joan Caulfield Audie Murphy / Gale Storm The Kid From Texas Title CardWe Were Strangers Movie Lobby Card Set Jennifer Jones & John Garfield 1949Lobby Card 4 Lot~ Halloween ~jamie Lee Curtis ~donald Pleasence ~pj Soles~horrorFantastic Voyage Original 1966 Lobby Card #3 Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Sci-fiJohn Wayne "hondo". Movie Poster. 1953. Used To Hang In Dad's Old Theater.4 Rare Vtg Movie Lobby Cards Earth Vs The Flying Saucers 1 Signed By Harryhausen"zombie Holocaust" 1980, Complete Set 6 Lobby Cards, "cementerio De Los Zombies"Adventure Movie Lobby Card Clark Gable, Greer Garson & Joan Blondell 1945Le Mans Original 1971 Lobby Card #7 Steve Mcqueen, Action Adventure 3 Mesquiteers & Gale Storm SaddlematesFred Macmurray Spanking Paulette Goddard Suddenly It's Spring 1946 Lobby CardUndercover Girl Movie Lobby Card Set Alexis Smith & Scott Brady 1950Women Of The Prehistoric Planet Original Lobby Card #3 Wendell Corey, Sci-fiThe Set-up Original 1949 Lobby Card #8 Robert Ryan, Audrey Totter, Film NoirVintage Mexican Horror Sci-fi Lobby Cards Lot 6 Different Crater Lake MonsterThe Hard Ride Vintage Movie Lobby Card Motorcycles Biker Film Robert FullerAnita Ekberg And Jerry Lewis Original German Lobby Card 1955 Artists And ModelsTombs Of The Blind Dead Rare German Lobby Card Set Zombies Horror Gore2 Original Roy Rogers Lobby CardsJohnny Mack Brown Branded A Coward Title CardPorgy And Bess Sidney Poitier Dorothy Dandridge Sammy Davis Jr. 6 Orig LobbiesLive A Little Love A Little Original 1968 Lobby Card #6 Elvis Presley, MusicThe Crowded Hour, Bebe Daniels, Silent Lobby Card 1925Fist Full Of Dollars/few Dollars More R-69 Lobby Card #8 Clint Eastwood, Western John Wayne / Gail Russell Wake Of The Red WitchBig T*n*t Show Orig 1966 Lobby Card #6 Featuring Bo Didley Music DocumentaryTwo Smart People Original 1946 Lobby Card #4 Lucille Ball, John Hodiak, CrimeMother Goose A Go Go Original 1966 Lobby Card #7 Tommy Kirk, Anne Helm, ComedyMister Rock And Roll Movie Lobby Cards Alan Freed & Rocky Graziano 1957Sign Of Zorro Orig 1960 Lobby Card #5 Walt Disney Family, Guy Williams Is ZorroThe Lady Has Plans Movie Lobby Card Set + Extra Cards Ray Milland 1942Act Of Violence Original 1949 Lobby Card #8 Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, Film NoirKeep Your Powder Dry - Title Card - Lana Turner, Susan Peters - 1945The Winner's Circle (1948) Johnny Longden Horse Racing * Orig 8 Card Lobby SetThe Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes / Basil Rathbone / 1939 / Werker / Movie PostStar Wars Vintage Lobby Card Set 11x14 Esb 1980 Complete Set Of 8Original 1988 Die Hard Lobby Card Set - Starring Bruce Willis Action MovieBette Davis Winter Meeting Original 1940s Lobby Title Card Snow SleighOriginal Brigitte Bardot And God Created Woman Lobby Card 1956Hot Lead, Indian Agent & Gunplay Movie Lobby Card Lot Tim Holt 1948-1951Rare~1973 James Bond 007 Original Large Lobby Card~live And Let Die~14 X 36~vgc1974 James Bond 007 Orig Large Lobby Card~the Man With The Golden Gun~14x36~vgc1960 "the 3 World's Of Gulliver" Adventure Film - 1 Color Lobby Card - 8 X 10 Three Stooges Outlaws Is Coming Original Vintage Title Lobby Card 1965 Disney Lobby Card Fantasia 1963 Near Mint Dinosaur BattleDisney Lobby Card Fantasia 1963 Near Mint ChernabogKelly & Me (1957) Van Johnson & Piper Laurie * Original 8 Card Lobby Set