Vintage movie posters are highly collectible, especially those for films released before the 1940s. Few of these early posters survived because theater owners were obliged to send them along to the next theater. A smaller variant of the poster, the lobby card (or window card), is more widely available because theaters were allowed to add their names to the cards and keep them.
Beginning in the 1940s, theaters were able to buy additional copies of the larger sized posters, known as one-sheets, and keep those, too. These later posters are generally marked with the year and edition number.
Movie posters were originally produced purely as advertising, so even the major studios rarely saved posters from their films. Thus, movie posters from the 1920s or earlier are almost nonexistent today. It wasn’t until the release of Star Wars in 1977 that a strong interest in owning original movie posters became widespread...
The movie posters most sought by collectors tend to be from science-fiction films, followed closely by those from horror flicks. Sci-fi posters from the 1950s are especially in demand (The War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still), and the most popular era for horror posters tends to be the 1930s (Frankenstein, Dracula).
Posters for genre movies such as film noir, independent films, and B-movies are also especially desirable. In some cases, these posters are more collectible than ones with star-studded casts because the artwork can take center stage. That said, there are exceptions to every rule—the original 1941 Bill Gold poster for Casablanca is not only graphically compelling, it features Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at its center.
Other categories of vintage movie posters include musicals (An American in Paris, Singin’ In the Rain), Bollywood (Pyaasa, Shree 420), the Beatles (A Hard Day’s Night, Yellow Submarine), James Bond (Dr. No, Goldfinger), and French New Wave (Jules et Jim, Breathless).
Most collectors seek vintage movie posters because of their passion for a particular actor, director, or film, but some collectors like to acquire posters based on the poster’s designer. For example, Saul Bass’s classic designs for West Side Story, Vertigo, and Anatomy of a Murder echoed the Mid-century Modern aesthetic of the 1950s and 1960s.
As for Reynold Brown, his posters for such forgettable films as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and Love-Slaves of the Amazons were far better than the movies they advertised. On the other hand, sometimes the stars aligned, as was the case in Brown’s posters for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Ben-Hur.
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