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    

Original 1930 Clara Bow Paramount On Parade Silent Movie Star Lobby Card Dracula's Daughter 1936 * Gloria Holden * Edward Van Sloan * Universal Horror!! Original Walt Disney's Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs Us Lobby CardOriginal Walt Disney's Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs Us Lobby CardOriginal Walt Disney's Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs Us Lobby CardOn Her Majesty's Secret Service - 7 Original 1969 Uk Front Of House Lobby CardsRare 1931 F.w. Murnau "tabu" Paramount Pictures Silent Movie Picture Lobby Card Original Walt Disney's Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs Us Lobby CardOriginal Walt Disney's Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs Us Lobby CardJohn Wayne Lobby Card The Oregon Trail Original Republic Pictures 2John Wayne Lobby Card The Oregon Trail Original Republic PicturesVtg 1929 Gold Diggers Of Broadway Movie Lobby Card W/ Conway Tearle Warner Bros1930 Lobby Card "let’s Go Native" Jack Oakie Jeanette Macdonald Musical Comedy 1957 Aip Horror "i Was A Teenage Frankenstein" Lobby Card 1 Whit Bissell!!1958 Fox Sci-fi Horror "the Fly" Lobby Card 8 Famous Monsters!!It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Lot Of 5 Rare, Original Lobby CardsRaiders Of The South & Other Movie Lobby Cards West Of El Dorado & More WesternsSet 1943 G-men Vs The Black Dragon Ch 1 Lobby Cards W Title Card & Original BagCrawling Eye Orig 1958 Lobby Card #4 Forrest Tucker, Laurence Payne, Horror, SfHuge Lot Of 375 Vintage Original Movie Lobby Cards 1950's + Sci-fi Horror DramaMy Darling Genie Shaw Brothers Lobby Cards 1983Devil Thumbs A Ride Original 1947 Lobby Card 8 Lawrence Tierney, Ted North, NoirSailor Beware (1952) Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis * Lot Of 4 Orig Lobby Cards1979 Disney The Black Hole Lot Of 7 Lobby Card Maximilian Schell Yvette MimieuxSinful Confession Shaw Brothers Lobby Cards 1974Set 1942 King Of The Mounties Ch 1 Color Lobby Cards W Title Card & Original BagGodzilla Vs The Smog Monster Original 1972 Lobby Card #2 Horror, Sci/fi1959 Original Toho Battle In Outer Space Lobby Card 8 Alien Attack!!Return Of The Crazy Bumpkins Shaw Brothers Lobby Cards 1975Mr. Funnybone Shaw Brothers Lobby Cards 1976The Warlord Lobby Cards Shaw Brothers 1972Mad Mad 83 Shaw Brothers Lobby Cards 1983Fate Is The Hunter 91964) Glenn Ford * Nancy Kwan Original 8 Card Lobby SetTeenage Rebel (1956) Ginger Rogers * Michael Rennie Orig 8 Card Lobby SetThe Unholy Wife (1957) Sexy Bad Girl Diana Dors * Lot Of 4 Orig Lobby CardsTrade Card Set, Times Confectionery, Roy Rogers Sth Caliente, 1955 Ronald Reagan Bedtime For BonzoThe Unfinished Dance Original 1947 Lobby Card #4 Margaret O'brien, Cyd CharisseA Boy Named Charlie Brown Original 1970 Lobby Card #4 Charles M. Schulz, CartoonGary Cooper Beau Geste Original 1939 Lobby Card A Paramount ClassicI Married A Monster From Outer Space Orig Lobby Card 7 Tom Tryon, Gloria TalbottWx62 Kiss Me Kate Kathryn Grayson Howard Keel Orig Us Lobby Title CardLawrence Of Arabia Original 1962 Pre-awards Lobby Card Peter O'tooleDay The World Ended Original 1956 Lobby Card #2 Richard Denning, Lori Nelson S/f1958 Fox Sci-fi Horror "the Fly" Lobby Card 7 Vincent Price!! Master Archer Howard Hill Tembo1958 Fox Sci-fi "the Fly" Lobby Card 4 Patricia Owens Vincent Price Fine!!The Beatles Hard Days Night Press Photo Lobby Card Ringo Original 1964 Teen BeatReturn Of The Con Men Shaw Brothers Lobby Cards 1977Lover's Destiny Lobby Cards Shaw Brothers 1975James Bond Dr. No Original Lobby Card 1962 Sean Connery 007Devil Thumbs A Ride Original 1947 Lobby Card 7 Lawrence Tierney, Ted North, NoirSafari (1956) Victor Mature & Janet Leigh * Original 8 Card Lobby SetUnited Artists Peter Sellers In Undercovers Hero Movie Lobby Card Lot Of 9Dunwich Horror Original 1970 Lobby Card #5 Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, HorrorI Remember Mama Original 1948 Lobby Card #5 Irene Dunne, Barbara Bel GeddesNadja Tiller & Yves Massard Orig German Portrait Lc 1958 La Tour, Prends Garde!Jayne Mansfield & Leggy Girls On Stage German Lc 1958 Sheriff Of Fractured JawBerlin Express Original 1948 Lobby Card #5 Merle Oberon, Robert Ryan, Film NoirZombies Of Mora Tau Orig 1957 Lobby Card #7 Gregg Palmer, Allison Hayes, Horror