Vintage movie posters | Original film posters - Limelight Movie Art
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Collecting original film posters and lobby cards is, for most people, a hobby. As such, it should be simple, straightforward and jargon-free. But choosing what posters to buy, deciding how much to pay and working out where and how to display them, is a serious business.

There are now textbooks on the subject, and a wealth of helpful and informative material is available. But we want to keep the words on this website as brief as possible, encouraging you instead to discover our vintage film posters and original lobby cards visually.

As with everything on this website, if you would like more information on any subject, or have any questions on any aspect of collecting film posters, then please e-mail us and we will do our very best to help.

But here is a deliberately brief Glossary dealing with three important subjects:

POSTER FORMAT AND SIZES

Original movie posters and cinema advertising materials have always been produced in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

There are many variables and exceptions to the rules, and no glossary on this subject can be 100% comprehensive. Exact sizes can vary according to date, studio or even printer.

If the precise size of any poster is important to you, please let us know and we will let you have an exact measurement.

But as a guide to the usual sizes of the most common formats, we hope the following will be helpful.

US Posters
UK Posters
Lobby Cards
French Posters
Italian Posters
Other Nationalities

US flag US Posters

Hollywood has been the home of the movies since the original film pioneers moved West from New York ninety years ago, initially to avoid patent litigation instigated by the inventors of cinematography, and then to exploit the weather and choice of local landscapes.

The majority of new films are US produced, and the majority of famous images and collectable posters are from original US materials. The main sizes are:

  • US Six Sheet. 81" x 81" produced in two, three or four separate pieces.
  • US Three Sheet. 41" x 81" and usually produced in two separate pieces.
  • US 40" x 60". Usually on heavier paper.
  • US 30" x 40". Usually on heavier paper.
  • US One Sheet. Probably the best known and most common size. 27" x 41" (or 27" x 40" since the 1980s).
  • US Half Sheet. 22" x 28", on heavier paper or card stock, and often featuring different artwork from the One Sheet. Horizontal image, rather than vertical.
  • US Insert. 14" x 36", on heavier paper or card stock, and again often offering different artwork.
  • US Window Card. Usually 14" x 22", on card stock, and normally with a blank section at the top, on which the details of the local cinema at which the film was playing were added. They were designed to be displayed in places other than cinemas, such as local shops, or for use during road shows.
  • US Lobby Card. 11" x 14", on card stock, and usually issued in sets of eight.
  • US Jumbo Lobby Card. 14" x 17". Less common than regular Lobby Cards, and less predictable in terms of numbers contained in the Sets.
  • US Stills. 8" x 10", comprising a combination of shots from the film and "set shots", which were produced to be sent to the Press for their use.


UK flag UK Posters

For collectors based in the UK, film posters which were made and used here, and which we actually saw outside the cinema when we saw a film, can be particularly desirable, even for films which were produced in the US or elsewhere.

The artwork is usually, but by no means always, similar to the US image. The main sizes are:
  • UK Three Sheet. 40" x 81" and usually produced in two separate pieces.
  • UK Quad (sometimes called Quad Crown and sometimes Crown Quad). 30" x 40". The most common UK format, with the image viewed in landscape format, rather than the portrait format of the One Sheet.
  • UK One Sheet. 27" x 40" and therefore similar in appearance to the US One Sheet, but with artwork which is usually the same as the UK Quad. Typically printed in this country but for use abroad, in particular in Commonwealth countries.
  • UK Double Crown. 20" x 30".
  • UK Front of House or Lobby Card. Cards measuring 11" x 14" are sometimes found, but the more common size for the cards on display outside UK cinemas, usually issued in sets of eight, was 8" x 10".
  • UK Stills. 8" x 10".


Lobby Cards

Lobby Cards are much smaller than posters. They were produced in sets, in the US and UK, usually of eight.

As their name suggests, they were displayed outside a cinema, or inside, in its lobby or foyer, and are essentially a series of different scenes from the film, designed to give the waiting audience an idea of what they would see inside.

Until the 1960s, they very often also featured artwork in their margins which was the same as, or based on, the main poster art. Many studios also issued one Title Card with seven scene cards, with the Title Card reproducing poser artwork.

Lobby Cards represent an affordable alternative to posters, and are also popular with collectors with less free wall space, as US and UK lobby Cards typically measure only 11" x 14".

French flag French Posters

The artwork on French posters for US or UK films is usually different from the country of origin's poster, sometimes more "daring", and often very collectable.

France has always had a very active film industry, so there are also many popular domestic titles. French posters come in a number of sizes, including:

  • French Affichette. A smaller size, usually around 15" x 22".
  • French Affiche. Usually either 24" x 43" or 22" x 30".
  • French Grande. 47" x 63" (in one piece).


Italian flag Italian Posters

Like France, Italy produces a significant number of posters for its own national productions, as well as often stunningly different versions of posters for US productions.

The rich artwork, and the variety of sizes available, makes Italian posters very attractive to collectors. The main formats are:
  • Italian Four Sheet or Four Foglio. 55" x 78" and usually produced in two pieces.
  • Italian Two Sheet or Two Foglio. 39" x 55" (in one piece).
  • Italian One Sheet or Double Fotobusta. 28" x 39".
  • Italian Photobusta or Fotobusta. 14" x 20" until around the 1960s when the generally changed to 18" x 26". They originally came in sets of six, eight, ten or twelve, illustrating different scenes from the film.
  • Italian Locandina. 13" x 27".


Other Nationalities


Argentinian flag Argentinian Posters

Early Argentinian posters frequently feature beautiful artwork, not always based on the US versions, although from the 1970s onwards, the images have tended to be cruder and less attractive.

  • Argentinian One Sheet. 29" x 43". Usually on lesser quality/thinner paper.


Australian flag Australian Posters

Australian posters for non-Australian movies usually comprise locally drawn versions of the same images as appear in a film's country of origin. Sometimes the image is virtually indistinguishable from the "original", but it is often clear that a less talented poster artist was at work. The paper is usually slightly lighter in weight than is used in the US or UK.

  • Australian One Sheet. 27" x 40".
  • Australian Daybill. 14" x 40", 13" x 30" or (more recently) 13" x 26".


Belgian flag Belgian Posters

Usually found in one of the smaller formats. They are typically dual language, French and Flemish, with the original English title appearing somewhere in the small print.

  • Belgian Affiche. 14" x 19-22", and other variants, and usually on lighter-weight paper.


German flag German Posters

West German and post -unification posters often feature similar artwork to the country of origin, but can on occasion be very different. The most common sizes are:

  • German A1. 23" x 33".
  • German A0. 46" x 33".


Japanese flag Japanese Posters

Becoming more popular in recent years, their artwork is usually built around photography from the film, and the most common size is the:

  • Japanese B2. 20" x 29".


Mexican flag Mexican Posters

Historically, produced on cheaper paper and harder to find in good condition. Newer posters are more robust, and both offer colourful variants on the country of origin poster, as well as illustrating the country's own substantial level of local film production. The main sizes are:

  • Mexican One Sheet. Usually 26" x 39" until the mid 1970s, and 27" x 41" from then on.
  • Mexican Lobby Card. Like their US counterparts, produced in sets, usually of eight, and like the Mexican One Sheets, usually using more vivid colouring. Sizes vary but are usually around 14" x 17".


Polish flag Polish Posters

Polish posters, especially those pre-1980, are generally acknowledged to feature some of the finest artwork and images. The artwork usually bears no resemblance to that used in the country of origin's campaign, or even to the film itself

It is rather an artistic interpretation of the title by very talented local artists. The posters are usually produced on lesser quality paper, and come in a wide variety of sizes, including:

  • Polish One Sheet. 26-27" x 39-41".
  • Polish Smaller Poster. 16-20" x 30-33" or smaller.


Scandinavian flag Scandinavian Posters

They are also generally printed on lesser quality paper, but the artwork - especially by a number of early Swedish poster artists - is again often very striking, and collectable in its own right. Sizes also vary but include:

  • Danish One Sheet. 24" x 33".
  • Swedish One Sheet. 23" x 33" and 27" x 40".


Spanish flag Spanish Posters

There is a significant Spanish film industry, which is represented in the poster artwork. Posters for English language films (often released in Spain some time after their original local release) often employ very similar artwork to their originals, and offer more affordable versions of classic images. Usually printed (often in the US by the original printers) on lesser quality paper. The most common is the:

  • Spanish One Sheet. 27" x 39".


GRADING AND CONDITIONS

Grading vintage posters is an art and not a science. There is no universally adopted grading scheme. Different retailers, auctioneers and publishers use different systems, and even where the same information is used, different subjective interpretations produce different results.

We encourage you to look at the images as well as reading the gradings, to ask for more detailed pictures if you are unsure about the condition of a piece, and, wherever possible, physically to inspect an item before deciding to buy.

You should also bear in mind that original cinema posters (a) were not intended to be kept beyond their original use; (b) were typically sent out to cinemas folded; and (c) were physically displayed inside and outside the cinema.

So folds (and minor fold separations) and pin-holes and the like at the corners or in the borders are very common.

With that in mind, we grade our posters from A (absolutely mint condition) down to C- (poor condition, possibly with parts of the main image badly damaged or even missing). In general, a poster that is graded B+ or better will be complete, with only very minor fold separations and/or pinholes or similar minor faults. B is what many would call "Good" or even "Good to Very Good" and will have slightly greater flaws.

The key is to look at the images and ask questions - we want you to be as clear as possible as to the condition of a poster or lobby card before you decide to buy, and to be happy with your purchase.

We don't over-crop our images, or otherwise enhance them or try to minimise or disguise any flaws. Nor do we use photos of anything other than the actual stock that we hold. But we still encourage you to look at them if you can before taking a final decision.

LINEN BACKING, RESTORATION AND FRAMING


Linen Backing

Lobby cards, Half Sheets and Inserts are all printed on card or heavier stock and, as such, are usually robust enough to be framed without backing. But many collectors and interior designers prefer to treat Quads, One Sheets and other larger posters before framing.

There are a number of different techniques applied in order to stabilise old or fragile paper and to minimise fold lines, and different solutions will be best for different posters (though we would recommend you never to have an original movie poster dry-mounted). For some formats, some collectors prefer paper backing.

Generally we like to see posters professionally linen-backed. This is a fully-reversible conservation process. The poster becomes more robust, but is still flexible and gives a better framed result.

A professionally linen-backed poster will not deteriorate in the way a loose, folded poster does, and many argue that this process increases the value of the piece. When a poster is linen-backed fold-lines will typically be much reduced, and will sometimes disappear completely.


Restoration

At this stage, the poster can also receive any minor touching-up and restoration needed if you wish to remove all minor flaws and damage.

Restoration is very much a matter of personal preference, although good restoration carried out by a gifted restorer will usually make a damaged poster much more attractive and will usually enhance its value. However, whether or not to restore often depends not only on the present condition of a piece, its rarity value and collectability, but also on how it is going to be displayed.


Framing

Finally, you will probably want to frame your art so that it can be displayed and enjoyed to maximum benefit. The choices are virtually limitless.

To mount or not to mount? What size or colour mount to use? What size frame? What type of moulding? What colour frame? And so on.

The golden rule is to make sure that all mount boards, backing boards and other such materials are acid free, but apart from that, the choice is yours.

If you need any help, we are always happy to talk through the alternatives with you. We don't do it ourselves, but we do know very good people who can help you with backing, restoration and framing, and we would be delighted to put you in touch with them if you wish.

Or, if it's easier for you, once you have decided how you want to treat your piece of original movie art, we can organise it for you. Our aim is for you to end up with something which you will really enjoy owning.