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Since the early days of filmmaking, movie posters have served as focal points to advertise a theater’s upcoming and feature films. In the early 20th century, they were produced in small numbers, and theaters had to use or rent posters directly from movie studios—passing them back to the studios or designated exchanges once finished with the respective film. This process, however, soon evolved.
Around 1940, the National Screen Service was formed, taking over the printing, distribution, and redistribution of movie posters in the United States. In the 1980s, movie studios regained control and distribution of posters, mass-producing them affordably enough that theaters did not have to return the pieces.
Those who take up collecting movie posters do so for many reasons, perhaps for love of a particular film, admiration for an actor or director, or even enjoyment of a poster’s graphic artist. Care should be taken to assure posters are correctly identified as originals, since commercial reprints are not considered collectible items.
A rare movie poster from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film “Metropolis” was auctioned off at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles in December 2012. The poster, along with a handful of other rare posters and memorabilia, was won by collector Ralph DeLuca for $1.2 million
In the early 20th century, movie posters were sometimes used to insulate dwelling walls and floors. Valuable stashes have been found during a number of modern-day home remodels
Older posters were often folded and shipped to theaters, not rolled. Older posters may also have a tanned appearance since they were printed on acidic paper