Collecting Basics, part 2

This is Part Two in a series by Kirby McDaniel of MovieArt for Jon Warren's "Movie Poster Guide". It is reproduced here as a service to collectors with Jon's permission. Click here for Part Three.

U.S. 30 X 40 and 40 X 60 inch posters

40x60 NewThese posters are printed on card stock, generally, and are scarcer than the smaller sizes. These might be folded, but more often than not they have been stored flat or rolled. Because they are bulky, these may be difficult to find in better condition. Both sizes are oriented vertically. Occasionally more than one style is found on a given title. Most examples are offset lithography, but silkscreen examples exist as well. Like all larger posters, framing is more expensive because of the oversized glass or plexiglass that is required as well as more running-feet of of material for the frame etc. Homemade frames may be very cost-effective for larger posters.

U.S. Three-sheet (41 x 81 inches)

[caption id="attachment_146" align="alignright" width="155" caption="Three Sheet Example"]Three Sheet Example[/caption]

The three-sheet poster is printed on paper stock and is three times larger, in square inches, than a one sheet. Its dimensions are 41 inches wide by 81 inches high usually.  Usually two separate panels are joined to make one poster. Its orientation is vertical and often shares a design with the insert card, which is proportional. More modern three sheets are almost always offset lithography, but stone lithographs exist for ealier titles. Three sheets are generally scarcer than smaller posters on the same title. Like all larger formats, fewer of them were printed originally and even fewer have survived. Because it is large, preparation of the poster for display is more expensive than for a smaller poster. But if you have the space to display one, or even if you are simply in love with larger images, three-sheets are great. They may show a larger image of the same art used on one or more of the smaller posters on a title, or they may offer an image that is different altogether from any other poster.  The most successful three-sheets are ones which are designed to best utilize the vertical scheme.  Occasionally a three sheet may have slightly smaller or slightly larger dimensions.

U.S. Six-sheet (81 x 81)

Six Sheet RevisedThe six-sheet poster is six times larger, in square inches, than a one-sheet and twice as large as a three- sheet. Normally a six-sheet measures 81 inches wide by 81 inches high: it is the only movie poster that is a perfect square. There are six sheets that are slightly larger or slightly smaller than these dimensions but these are not the rule. By any definition this poster is BIG. Three and six-sheets were usually used in the big, downtown movie palaces, and, so they are especially evocative of the grandest era of movie exhibition.  The six-sheet is usually printed on four separate panels which are joined to make one poster.

Normally the six-sheet is scarcer, than, for example, a three-sheet on the same title. This is logical because fewer sixes than threes -and fewer threes than ones - were printed initially.  And because larger posters were often viewed as too large to frame, in the early years of collecting they were often discarded, further reducing their numbers. Six-sheets may be offset lithography or they may be stone lithographs; they are printed on normal paper stocks. They are even more expensive to prepare for display than a three sheet. When they work well, however, they can be very impressive indeed. Obviously, they dominate even a large room.

U.S. Twenty four-sheet

24 Sheet RevisedThe twenty four-sheet was used as an exterior billboard. They were sometimes called poster panels by the studios. Twenty four-sheets can vary in size, but most are printed on sixteen or more different panels which are joined to make a poster which is 9 feet high by 20 feet wide. These are easily the scarcest of any poster size. They are therefore normally the rarest poster  on any given title; in fact on most titles no twenty four-sheets at all are known to exist. While this can be true for any size poster on a particular title, it is especially true for larger sizes and special sizes. Twenty four-sheets were intended to be used only in the initial, first-run release of a film. A exterior billboard signage had to be rented from an advertising display company. Usually the budget for this type of exploitation existed only for a film's first engagements. Once a film had moved our of first-run houses and into second-run neighborhood theaters, twenty four-sheets were seldom used. These giants were the only posters that were largely destroyed whenever they were in fact used. Most posters were used by the exhibitors and then returned to warehouses or poster exchanges from which they had been leased. A twenty four-sheet was purchased by the exhibitor, pasted up, displayed, and soon pasted over with another billboard as soon as the advertising need arose. When a film was finished with first-run distribution, the surplus copies were discarded from the exchange shelves. They were bulky and took up valuable space. So relatively few survived.

Who acquires these behemoth billboards?  They are sometimes used in huge decorating jobs or are sold to the completist collector who is interested in every single poster for a particular film.


[caption id="attachment_151" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Pressbook for Midnight Cowboy (1969)"]Pressbook for Midnight Cowboy (1969)[/caption]

Pressbooks are not posters. They are pressbooks for short, but they are also called Exhibitor's Campaign Manuals. They were produced by the studios and distributed primarily to the exhibitors to help them market the film in their respective areas. The pressbook contained articles and other text, targeted for the local newspapers, with information and publicity about the film and its stars. This ad copy was often regurgitated by local arts writers or simply lifted intact and published for local publicity. The pressbook contained advertising slicks or mats, ideas for marketing schemes, product tie-ins, and, most importantly for contemporary poster collectors, images of the posters and other campaign items intended for the exhibitor exploitation. Pressbooks are themselves collected as artifacts of a movie's production and marketing. They are most valued when they are completely intact and nothing has been excised from them. Pressbooks were made in varying sizes and formats.  In later years, pressbooks gave way to press kits, which were folders including press releases and stills.

Special sizes

[caption id="attachment_150" align="alignright" width="300" caption="U.S. premiere bus-stop poster NYC"]U.S. premiere bus-stop poster NYC[/caption]

It is not unusual to find posters of special sizes and purposes. There are silk and paper banners. There are posters intended for subway posting. There are vertical door panels. There are free standing poster displays called lobby standees and also counter standees. No one knows all of what was made for each film because sometimes different items were made for distribution to different localities.  Most of the posters we have discussed here were made for national distribution, but sometimes local exhibitors would make their own posters and display material.  Occasionally these oddball kinds of items are seen.

Posters foreign and domestic

[caption id="attachment_147" align="alignleft" width="218" caption="French 47x63"]French 47x63[/caption]

All of the sizes that have been discussed above are all for posters of U.S. origin. Film posters were, of course, manufactured and distributed in England, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Austria, Poland, Russia, Argentina, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, China, Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, Romania, the former Czechoslovakia, India, Australia and other countries. There were films made in these respective countries and films imported into them from any number of other countries. If you consider this for a minute, you begin to get an idea of the permutations and huge numbers of posters for films. A Belgian poster for an Italian film. A French poster for an American film. An Australian poster for an American film. An American poster for a British film. And so on. Every country has posters in its own and various sizes. And there are original and re-release posters in foreign posters just as in US posters. Developing a knowledgeable working overview of other-country posters is one of the difficult challenges for poster collectors worldwide.

[caption id="attachment_148" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Italian 79x55"]Italian 79x55[/caption]

Certainly the French, Italian, and Belgian posters have been popular with poster collectors in the United States for years.  But British, Mexican, Polish and Japanese film posters are very well known in the U.S.  Several years ago there was a big influx of Argentinean posters. These, too, can be beautiful. British posters can be very good and often feature a different design than their American counterparts.  Each country's posters has a distinct style, although sometimes marketing campaigns for film can mandate uniformity of graphic design or logo across the world.  This is more common in recent years with the advent of quick global marketing.

Swedish Golden WestOne thing worth noting about international posters is the interest that collectors have in the artists that designed the posters. While there is increasing interest in the domestic poster market about this as well, many US posters were designed by studio workers whose work has gone largely uncredited. Not so in Europe, where a long tradition of posterization since the time of Toulouse-Lautrec and others have created an awareness and a following for the artists that designed the posters. This endlessly fascinating interest in the artists' styles is perhaps the most compelling aspect of International Movie Poster Collecting. European artists like Mascii, Roger Soubie, Lenica, Peron, Ballester, Peron, Grinsson, Martinati and many others are associated with great poster design. Some collectors will collect posters simply for the artist's work; they may have no interest in the film whatsoever.  This is now evident in the U.S. poster collecting too, with artists like Saul Bass, Drew Struszan, Richard Amsel and Howard Terpning cited as favorites among collectors worldwide.

This is Part Two in a series by Kirby McDaniel of MovieArt for Jon Warren's "Movie Poster Guide". It is reproduced here as a service to collectors with Jon's permission. Click here for Part Three.