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Over time and generations of motion picture history the movie poster has been printed in a number of different sizes and shapes. The bigger the movie being released, the bigger the poster campaign produced by the studio. At the beginning of the 20th century when moving pictures were just beginning to make an impact on society, the most common size or format for a movie posters was the one sheet. These first posters or one sheets were a common size of 27" x 41" which is the largest sheet that would fit in the lithographers press bed, so in turn this made it a common size used for theater posters prior to motion pictures. Later the larger size posters such as three sheets or six sheets were still derived from the one sheet, for example a three sheet was created with the use of three one sheets and so on.
Lobby Cards (11" X 14")
Lobby cards for the most part are issued in sets of eight and of coarse there are always those that break the rules. These Lobby Cards were printed on heavy card-stock for display in theater lobbies. The Title Lobby Card showed the production credits and poster artwork whereas the other seven cards were scenes from the film. These lobby cards were usually produced in full color and again there are those.
Jumbo Lobby Card (14" X 17")
Jumbo Lobby Cards were printed prior to the 1940s, these cards were usually produced by the larger movie studio's and generally for higher profile releases. These jumbo cards were often printed on a linen or glossy stock, as these cards were produced in far fewer quantities than standard lobby cards, in conclusion, this makes them a bit more rare.
Produced on a heavy card-stock, these cards were smaller version posters used in shop windows and theater lobbies to advertise the upcoming or currently showing feature films.
Window Card (14" X 22")
These window cards generally had a blank white imprint area of approximately 4 inches at the top of the card to allow the theater's to add there name and the date of showing.
Jumbo Window Card (22" X 28")
These jumbo window cards were over-sized versions of the standard window card also printed on card-stock. These cards were produced in far fewer numbers making them rarer than the standard lobby card.
Midget Window Card (8" X 14")
Midget window cards were printed primarily before the 1940s and were smaller versions of the standard window cards including the same artwork. These cards also had a blank imprint area which were usually used in cigar or candy cases in shops or restaurants. These were printed in much smaller quantities, making them rarer than standard window card as well.
One Sheet (27" X 41")
The one sheet is the most recognizable as the standard movie poster. These one sheets or posters were printed on a thin paper stock and were usually displayed in front of the theater or in the lobby. Almost always implemented by studio hired artists and illustrators, they would give a bold display of title, credits, and outstanding illustrations of star portraits or a graphic depiction of the film's story line. The studios often printed several different styles of posters for one film, among which might include a "Teaser" or "Advance," to be issued prior to the release of the film to attract potential audience attention. This size became popular in the early 1900s, and remained so until the size was shortened around 1985 to the typical 27" X 40." The One Sheet prior to 1980 was almost always found folded in eighths with one vertical fold and two horizontal folds, and after 1980 were sent to theaters rolled.
Half Sheet (22" X 28")
Printed on cardstock paper, the studios often printed two styles of this size. One style would be identical to the Title Lobby Card. These posters were often a photographic and artwork combination and were displayed in the lobby of the Theater. They were pictured in the collectors have taken to calling them Half Sheets, as they are half the size of a One Sheet.
Insert (14" X 36")
Printed on card stock paper, these posters were used in conjunction with One Sheets to promote a film. The artwork is usually done in a mix of photographic and artwork style as opposed to the all artwork One Sheet. These cards were often folded in thirds, and are very popular among collectors.
Three Sheet (41" X 81")
Three sheets were printed on a thin paper stock, which were intended to normally be posted outside of the theater. These posters were printed in two or three pieces in which the artwork had to be aligned by the theater at the time of display. For the major release films, by the larger movie studios there would sometimes be two different style three sheets printed. In the early 1970s studios began to produce three sheets in one piece and by the early 1980s had phased out the printing of this size poster altogether. These larger posters were printed in far fewer quantities than the one sheet and are more rare than the smaller posters.
Six Sheet (81" X 81")
Six Sheets are printed on thin paper stock in four different pieces, these posters were displayed outdoors as a small billboard. These posters were to be put together and aligned by the theater at time of display upon display and often featured artwork altogether different than the other posters. They were named Six Sheets as they are the size of six One Sheets put together. These posters were sent to theaters folded and were often displayed using wallpaper glue, rendering them unusable for future use. These posters were printed in far fewer numbers than almost any of the other posters and due to the display and use, far fewer of these posters have survived. Often, due to the large size, these posters are very impressive works of art.
Twenty-Four Sheet (246" X 108")
These huge posters were produced to be used as billboard art and usually came printed in 12 sections. They were printed on standard paper stock and were usually destroyed after the display of the poster. Very few Twenty-Four sheet posters have survived for any films and almost none for films produced before 1950. These are some of the rarest posters in the hobby and due to the size perhaps just as lacking in collectiblity.
Door Panels (20" X 60")
Tall, vertical posters, printed on thin stock paper in one panel and most often sold in sets of four or six for the more prominent feature releases by major studios. These posters were to be displayed on the doors of the theater and featured unique artwork from the one sheets. More often than not, one panel would feature the title of the film and the other panels would be the stars or scenes from the film. These sets were rarely purchased by theater owners, presumably due to expense, and consequently are very rare and very collectible.
Subway (54" X 41")
Major Studios started printing subway posters in the 1960s, which were printed on standard paper stock. These posters were and are usually used in mass transit station displays. These posters often feature a variation on the "Advance" poster art and are sometimes referred to as Two Sheets and are printed in limited numbers and are very collectible for the earlier titles from the 1960s.
Studios began producing banners in the 1920s and they were painted using beautiful, full-color silk screen art on canvas or bookbinder's cloth with grommets spaced along the edges which came in a variety of sizes ranging from 24" to 30" or 84" to 120." . Starting in the late 1930s the movie studios began to transition to a card stock material but still silk screening in a mono-tone color scheme and adding a photograph pasted to the banner. Today's banners are printed on vinyl and come in a vast variety of sizes.
Studios began printing these large paper stock posters in the early 1930s, these large posters were usually rolled when sent to the theater. During the 1930s many of these posters were produced by the Hollywood Sign-Makers Union using a silk-screen process, which was often done in strong, day-glow paints which made for very striking graphics. These craftsmen would often produce as many as ten to twenty paint screens to produce these works of art.
The other method for producing these larger size posters during this time was the photo-gelatin process, the same method used to produce 1930s Lobby Cards. These posters were most often photographic and were produced on a thin paper stock which became brittle over time. The silk-screen and photo-gelatin 40" X 60"s are by far the rarest posters to find for any film from the 1930s. By the 1940s, the 40" X 60"s began being produced on a heavy card stock, in off-set lithography and remained so up until their demise in the early 1980s. In the 1960s these posters became just larger copies of the one sheet, which could be put on an easel to display in large areas. 40" X 60" posters were printed in very limited numbers and few survived.
These posters like the 40" X 60" were printed on a card stock and were normally sent rolled to the theaters. This size began to be printed in the 1930s, often instead of a One Sheet, as was the case with Disney Studios, who printed this format instead of One Sheets from 1935 through 1937. This size gained in popularity in the 1950s as theater owners found them more durable than One Sheets as they were almost identical to the later in artwork.
The Australian Daybill
The Australian Daybill ranged in sizes over the years with smaller daybills were printed during the war due to paper shortages
1910-1941 14" X 40"
1941-1945 10" X 30"
The Austrailian "Long Daybill"
1941-1970s 13" X 30"
1980s to present Approx. 26" X 30"
Normally stone or zinc plate lithos, folded twice like the American Insert.
For the most part 27" x 40" prior to 1970s and usually Stone Lithos, with limited quantities printed. Limited runs as few as 200 One Sheets were printed for films prior to 1950. which explains the rarity of the Australian One-Sheet.
Generally 41" X 81" similar to US Three Sheets but with the addition of the Australian Censor Blurb.
Australia normally used American Lobby Card Sets and Half Sheets.
The British quad measures 40" x 30" which is printed on paper stock and the image is often designed to fit the horizontal format. The British Quad is the standard British movie poster and generally has different art-work than the the US one sheet.
British Double Crown
The British Double Crown measures 20" x 30" and is printed on paper stock.
27" x 40". Not as common as the Quad.
41" x 81" Not as common as the US 3-sheet.
Underground Poster aka Giant Fly
Approximately 65" x 40" printed on paper stock and is used on the walls of mass transit underground stations and bus shelters. When this size is not produced, generally several copies of international one-sheets are grouped to fill the display area.
Front of House
10" x 8" printed on card stock; usually issued in sets of eight in color for display in theater lobbies, especially in the UK. The British equivalent to the US Lobby Cards sets.
80" x 90" The top ten inches are left blank so the theater information can be put in later.
The Locandino measures 13 x 27 in
Photobusta or Fotobusta
Glossy, high quality lithographs, that are the lobby cards of Europe. Size may vary. May be printed in either vertical or horizontal format, measuring 27 x 19 in.
The 2-foglio is the standard poster size in Italy, measuring 39 x 55 in.
The 4-foglio is a very large poster printed in 2 sheets, measuring 55 x 78 in.
Mini (for posting on walls): 40 x 55 cm (16" x 22") but the size may vary considerably.
Petite: 60 cm x 80 cm (23.5" x 31.5") Either Mini or Petite is sometimes called an affichette.
Grande: 120 cm x 160 cm (47" x 63") This is the standard french poster.
8 Panneaux: 4 m x 3 m (158" x 118") Used above the marquee in large French cinemas.
A0: 84 x 118 cm or 33" x 46"
may be vertical or horizontal format
A1: 59 x 84 cm or 23" x 33"
this is the most common size.
A2: 59 x 42 cm or 24" x 17".
A3: 29 x 42 cm or 11" x 17".
A4: 21 x 20 cm or 8" x 8".
Lobby cards are also printed on paper, they vary in size from 8" x 12" to 12" x 18".
Belgian posters measure 24" x 33" before 1939 and from 1940 and on are about 14" x 22", these posters were printed either horizontal or vertical.
Polish Posters are mostly the same size as the German A1, but, because of paper shortages during the years of Soviet occupation, the posters are not uniform as to size, paper or color.
Your movie poster is a piece of motion picture history and should be treated the same care and respect that any historical artifact might be given. There are three major destructive elements associated with these paper products are:
Always keep your posters out of direct sunlight, UV rays will fade the printers inks used in their manufacturing posters. When framing a poster, always try to use archival or museum mounting elements such as UV resistant glass and acid-free mounting boards and mattes.
Always try to keep your posters or any paper collectible from any contact with water or moisture such as extreme humidity. Moisture will not only stain and mildew your poster, which will deteriorate the elements used in its manufacture of your poster.
Always avoid storing or displaying posters in overly hot environments, as these elements will make the paper fibers brittle and will darken them making your posters brown (or tanned) in the process.
In caring for your movie posters, there are various handling and storage techniques to that should be used.
For any folded poster, the folding and unfolding should be avoided, as that will eventually weaken the paper fibers and cause separation and tearing. For the post-1960s glossy stock posters, the folding is especially harmful, as the color will flake and fall off on from the fold lines with excessive handling. If a poster is rolled or has never been folded, under no circumstances should it be folded. It is best to store all posters unfolded and flat.
Linen Backed Posters
Any poster that has been restored by mounting it on archival linen should be stored flat. The rolling and unrolling will eventually cause wear on the poster and the same holds true if your poster has been restored by mounting on Japanese or archival paper, they should be stored flat, as the rolling and unrolling will cause the fold lines to reappear in the paper.
When you decide on having a poster framed, you should take the poster to a knowledgeable framer who has experience in archival museum mounting and framing. Never ever let a framer heat mount, or adhesive mount your poster to flatten it. Anything done to frame the poster must always be reversible with no damaging effects, such as using acid free matting and UV glass to keep from staining or tanning your poster.