Movie Poster Art - A Brief History
For a better understanding of what movie poster art is and can be, we feel it is important to understand a little bit of history to put these products into perspective. If you would like to know more about the specific categories and products associated with movie poster art, please browse our Products section. To learn more about what a good investment movie posters can be, Click Here.
Movie Poster Art — Distribution prior to 1940Many of what has been argued are some of the greatest films ever made were produced in the 1930’s, including "King Kong", "Citizen Kane", "Gone With the Wind" and the "Wizard of Oz". Worldwide, the depression was ending and more and more folks flocked to movie theaters to enjoy a little escape.
The studios were very prolific in this time period, subsequently the various movie exhibitors across North America had a hard time keeping up with the advertising materials required to advertise each film. At the time many of the exhibitors had to deal individually with each studio for their needs.
Recognizing the inefficiencies associated with this process, in 1939 the studios struck a relationship with a company called the National Screen Service (NSS). The NSS had been producing and distributing movie trailers to exhibitors for twenty years and had an established distribution infrastructure. Under contract to almost all the studios, the company became the defacto printer and distributor of all movie poster advertising and related products.
At the time there were also approximately 28 independent theater exchanges. These exchanges previously competed with the NSS in the production and distribution of movie trailers and posters. The independent theater exchanges believed they were entitled to continue the distribution of movie-advertising products to their customers. Litigation ensued and the NSS eventually released their stranglehold on the distribution and agreed to sell the products to each of these independent companies.
Although the exhibitors in larger cities could have their advertising needs met by the local theater exchange, many smaller town across North America received their movies by Greyhound bus! The movie would play for a few days or a week in each town. The reels would then be packed up with an envelope containing the posters and it would be off to the next town. After working its way across a state or a couple of provinces, the posters and ad materials would end up in pretty rough shape. Typically, they were thrown away. Because of this, not many copies of meaningful movie titles exist from this time period. At the time, no one suspected movie-advertising products would ever have any intrinsic or monetary value.
Movie Poster Art — Distribution 1940’s to the mid-1980’sWith the advent of the Second World War (and at the behest of the government) the studios predominantly produced war-related movies. Movie poster art form this era became scarce due to a worldwide shortage of paper. It was common to find movie advertising printed on the back of maps! Couple the paper shortage with thousands of paper drives in communities across North America in support of the war effort and it is clear why these products are so scarce today.
The NSS continued to flourish within these years. The NSS would sell the advertising material to the Poster or theater Exchanges who in turn would lease or sell the products to the local exhibitors in their region. Some of the material we have seen from these years indicates the company sold one-sheet movie posters for twenty-five cents! In addition, the exhibitor, if they chose, could return the posters for a credit of twelve and a half cents against their next purchase!
The company instituted a number coding system which was displayed on each print. Typically the year the poster was released came first. For example: 60/165 number - "60" for the year 1960 and then the number "165" denoted the film was the 165th film released that year. These numbers are typically displayed on all posters produced post 1940 until the early-to-mid 1980’s.
Almost all original one sheets sold from this period were folded for easier shipment.
At the apex of their control of this market it has been said that the NSS produced 90% of all movie-advertising products. Unfortunately, a number of factors developed which signaled the beginning of the end for the NSS and the theater Exchanges.
Movie Poster Art — Distribution after the mid-1980’sThe beginning of the 1980’s saw the decline of the single screen, single movie approach to showing movies. The large national exhibitors were now building multi-screen theaters in pursuit of more revenue.
Prior to the emergence of the multi-screen cinema, typically only one movie would be shown per theater. This required theater owners to have lots of different sized advertising material inside and outside the theater to promote the film. That is why for 45 plus years there were so many kinds of different advertising materials available.
This evolution from the single screen complex to multi screen complex meant that theater owners required fewer products to promote the various films showing at their cinemas. They were now choosing to use one-sheet posters and mini posters exclusively to promote the films.
The studios decided to claw back distribution of their advertising materials and by the mid-1980’s, the NSS had relinquished it’s control over the movie advertising industry. Many of the poster exchanges were forced out of business. Some of these poster exchanges still had meaningful inventory of the products they had been distributing over the years. Some of these companies morphed into direct mail or catalogue businesses reselling their inventories to collectors world-wide.
Other exchanges simply closed their doors and sent all the inventories to the trash heap. There are legendary stories within the business (poster equivalents of the "big fish" story) of owners throwing away what in a few years would be products worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In time the market for vintage movie poster art grew and grew. Today there are hundreds of dealers across the world that sell new and vintage movie poster art. The market is growing year by year. The prices for the more desirable titles have skyrocketed in the last five years, making movie poster art acquisition a very desirable and profitable pastime.
Movie Poster Art — Distribution today and the InternetToday, most new release movies are accompanied by a 27"x 40" one sheet poster. These posters have become the ubiquitous advertising products for all the studios. Most studios do not make these new posters available to consumers directly. This means there are only limited numbers of these posters available and generally only if you know someone who works for a studio or a theater exhibitor. MovieGoods believes for a number of reasons that this is about to change. Studios will be making their posters available to consumers and the Internet will become the largest distribution channel for these new posters.
eBay allows buyers to sell their individual posters for a profit and continue to monitor the value of their collection, in real time no less. We believe that eBay will revolutionize the movie art marketplace.
In years gone by, the only way for a movie art collector to sell his/her products was through offline catalogues or auctions which were infrequently held around the world. Today there are online auctions starting and ending every minute. Several well-connected vendors tightly controlled the market. Not anymore… The revolution has begun. If you’re a movie fan and you have a personal connection to one or more films…why not buy the poster? Maybe you can be a shrewd buyer and buy and sell posters as a home based business or a hobby. To find out why you should buy movie poster art Click Here.
Relive the magic of the movies…hang a memory on your wall today!