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”)

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]

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]

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    

M943 Vintage Set Of 4 Walt Disney Fun And Fancy Free Original Lobby Cards 1947[I Walk Alone Original 1948 Lobby Card #6 Burt Lancaster, Lizabeth Scott, NoirM941 Vintage Walt Disney's Cinderella Original Title Lobby Card 1965 Rko Radio [Charlie Chan Sidney Toler Original 1940s Lobby Title Card Dark Alibi DetectiveGodzilla Vs The Smog Monster Original 1972 Lobby Card #5 Horror, Sci/fiOriginal Vintage Advertising Lobby Card Sullivan's Travels Mccrea * LakeAffair In Trinidad Original 1952 Lobby Card Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, Film NoirGreen Snake - Joey Wong & Maggie Cheung - Lobby Card SetM942 Vintage Walt Disney's Make Mine Music! Original Lobby Card 1946 Rko Radio [Vintage 1933 Lobby Card Footlight Parade James Cagney Joan Blondell Ruby KeelerMr. Deeds Goes To Town Gary Cooper Jean Arthur Frank Capra Original Lobby CardThe Blob Original 1958 Lobby Card #1 Steve Mcqueen, Aneta Corsaut, Horror Sci/fiRko Radio Pictures Hard Cover Announcement Book 1933 -1934Invaders From Mars Original 1953 Lobby Card Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Sci/fiRear Window R-62 Lobby Card #6 James Stewart, Grace Kelly Classic Hitchcock FilmSuperman Christopher Reeve Margot Kidder 4 Original Lobby CardsBaby Doll 6 Original Lobby Cards Carroll Baker Karl Malden Eli WallachBlack & White 1964 Beatles Lobby Card Press Release Vintage "come To Town" MusicThe Hound Of The Baskervilles Original Title Card Peter Cushing, Christopher LeeI Was A Teenage Frankenstein Original 1957 Lobby Card #2 Whit Bissell, HorrorThe Deadly Mantis Orig 1957 Lobby Card #5 Craig Stevens, William Hopper Sci-fiSands Of Iwo Jima -john Wayne/ John Agar/ Forrest Tucker -lobby Card #71947 Hopalong Cassidy In Dangerous Venture Color Lobby Card (b) **original**When Comedy Was King Laurel & Hardy Buster Keaton Chaplin 8 Original Lobby CardsLot Of 3 1941 Jungle Girl Original Chapter 11 Lobby Cards Frances Gifford12 Hong Kong Movie Lobby Cards - Whiplash 12 Hong Kong Movie Lobby Cards - Bandits From Shantung So Dear To My Heart Original 1949 Title Card Walt Disney Heartwarming ClassicFunny Face Original 1957 Lobby Card #1 Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Musical1935 The Lone Wolf Returns - 4 Lobby Cards - Masked Detective Crime MysteryShirley Temple 1930s Original Lobby Card Poor Little Rich Girl Jack HaleyQueen Of Outer Space Original 1958 Lobby Card #1 Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eric Fleming S/fCurucu Beast Of The Amazon Orig 1956 Title Card John Bromfield, Beverly GarlandComplete Set Of 8! 007 James Bond Never Say Never Again Japan Large Lobby Cards!Hypnotic Eye Original 1960 Lobby Card #5 Allison Hayes, Merry Anders, HorrorCriminals - Arson Shaw Brothers Lobby Cards 1977Three Original Goldfinger French Lobby Cards James Bond 007 Sean Connery Lane Chandler Battling Buckeroo Title Card1929 Movie Lobby Card “salute” Helen Chandler George O'brien Joyce Compton Cl25 June Bride (1948) Bette Davis Original Lobby CardGreat Surprise Of 1938 Non Shaw Brothers Lobby Cards 1983Rawhide * Tyrone Power * Susan Hayward Western Lot Of 4 Orig Lobby CardsEq42 Weekend At The Waldorf (1945) Lana Turner Original Lobby CardBp39 The Other Love Barbara Stanwyck (1947) Original Lobby CardStop Look And Laugh -original Three Stooges/ Paul Winchell -lobby Card #1Clint Walker And Barry Atwater German Lc 1964 Gold, Glory And Custer - CheyenneBorn Yesterday Original 1951 Lobby Card #6 Judy Holliday, William Holden, DramaWalt Disney's - Lady And The Tramp - 1955 Vintage Original Theater Lobby CardRooster Cogburn -john Wayne/ Katharine/ Anthony Zebre -lobby Card #6Cecil B. Demille Original 1935 Lobby Title Card The Crusades Loretta YoungBf18 Docks Of New Orleans (1948) Roland Winters As Charlie Chan Orig Lobby CardComplete Set Of 8! 007 James Bond =you Only Live Twice= Japan Large Lobby Cards!Time Machine -rod Taylor/ Yvette Mimieux / Alan Young -lobby Card #7 Complete Set Of 10!! 007 James Bond =goldfinger= Japan Lobby Cards Sean Connery!Bob Steele George Hayes Jack Rockwell And That Rifle!.."the Brand Of Hate" 1934Set Of 8! 007 James Bond =from Russia With Love= Japan Lobby Cards Sean Connery!Tobor The Great Original 1954 Lobby Card #5 Charles Drake, Karin Booth, Sci/fiThe Undead Orig 1957 Lobby Card #3 Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland, Allison HayesWorld Without End Original 1956 Lobby Card Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Sci/fiThe Invisible Boy Original 1957 Lobby Card 3 Richard Eyer, Philip Abbott, Sci/fi