As many of you surely know, studios distributed their own posters to theaters until the end of
the 1930s. In 1940, a company that had been distributing movie trailers, National Screen Service
("NSS") was hired to distribute the posters for the studios through giant warehoused called "poster
The posters used by NSS all had NSS numbers (and often a text block at bottom on them) and once the ratings system began, they also had ratings (the ones used in the U.S., where the movies were rated) and there were also versions without ratings (for use outside the U.S., where they did not use that rating system).
These posters without ratings are called the "international styles" and sometimes they had completely different images from the "domestic" versions. This situation existed all the way from 1940 until some time in the mid to late 1970s, when studios began printing some one-sheets that were NOT distributed through the NSS.
But first, you also likely know that with very rare exceptions, the vast majority of one-sheets printed everywhere were folded right off the press prior to being sent to theaters (normally once vertically and twice horizontally, but sometimes they lacked the vertical fold, and those were called "tri-folded"). But almost NO one-sheets were ever distributed completely unfolded until the mid to late 1970s.
But when the studios started printing their own one-sheets (which can be distinguished from the NSS versions because they have NO NSS info printed on them, and they are called the "studio style"), they often left them completely unfolded. Some speculate that these were distributed internally to studio employees, but many of them found their way into collectors' hands, and suddenly collectors could sometimes get completely unfolded versions of one-sheets!
It seems quite possible that this printing of separate posters for the studios began in 1977 after the massive success of Star Wars, because many of those posters can be found in "studio style" versions, and after that date, some of these posters can be found from other movies as well (although the ones from 1977 to the early 1980s are still generally quite scarce).
It seems likely that these "studio style" one-sheets were primarily used for advance screenings, given to employees, sent to radio stations to give away, and for other promotional purposes. Most "advance" one-sheets were "studio style", and were distributed by the studios, and NOT by NSS.
Perhaps theater owners saw these and started requesting that NSS also distribute unfolded one-sheets, and a very, very few unfolded "NSS style" one-sheets started to appear in the mid-1970s. It seems that this started around 1983 (perhaps not coincidentally, with another Star Wars title, Return of the Jedi), where there is an unfolded style A "NSS style" known to exist.
Some longtime collectors report that these unfolded "NSS style" one-sheets were called "executive posters", and that they were sent to executives at the studios for their review and their approval (of course, some of these might have then made their way into the hands of theater owners or collectors, but it seems clear they were NOT intended to be used as "regular" one-sheets used at the theaters!).
By the mid 1980s they were being seen more and more, and by 1990 it seems that almost all poster exchanges stopped distributing folded one-sheets altogether, because just about all the folded one-sheets from the 1990s on seem to have been done so by hand!
But there is that period from around 1975 to around 1985 where it is very, very difficult to find unfolded "NSS one-sheets" (especially on top titles) and the prices on those have continued to rise in the past few years, as more and more collectors are becoming aware of them, and want to own these great rarities.
There is one question yet to be decided. Should "studio style" one-sheets sell for more, less, or the same as "NSS versions"? Generally, "studio styles" are far more rare than "NSS styles", and they can be found unfolded, where NSS styles from before 1985 almost never can. Over time, the collecting hobby as a whole will decide how to value an "NSS style" compared to the "studio style" of the same title in similar condition.
One thing I am certain of is that collectors will continue to seek out unfolded versions of titles that are almost never found unfolded, and will continue to put a very high premium on unfolded "NSS style" one-sheets from titles that are almost never found unfolded!
This Vintage Movie Poster Forum is powered by some old cinema posters, the flame retardant properties of a Top Gun Daybill, and a
British Quad which has been folded just the right amount of times and shoved under one of the corners to stop the place from wobbling.