Vintage vs. Modern Film Posters

One of the more interesting aspects of collecting vintage printed film memorabilia is the comparison of how they were made in the past to how they are presently made for movie theatres. Lobby cards, posters in all sizes from one-sheets to 24-sheets (billboard size) were intended for movie promotional use to place inside of movie theatre lobbies as well as the outside walls. In addition, foreign movie lobby cards and posters vary in size by country, such as England, Spain, Germany and France. American lobby cards are 11” x 14”, while British- and French- made lobby cards were 8” x 10” in size.

The first lobby cards were made in black and white during the early 1900’s and by the 1920’s, were manufactured in color, often between four to twelve in a set. These lobby cards depicted scenes from the movie they were made for. Lobby cards provide valuable research for the film historian, particularly if the film it was made for is considered lost. Thus lobby cards come in handy when the film historian writer has to reconstruct scenes from lost films while writing about them. For example, this lobby card for “Red Hot Hoofs” dates to 1926 although the actual silent film itself is designated as “lost”:

Red Hot Hoofs lobby card

So even though “Red Hot Hoofs” is unfortunately a lost film, we can see that Tom Tyler is in a boxing ring in this B-western produced by FBO. The size of this card is 11” x 14” in size. It should be noted that lobby cards are rarely manufactured in the United States nowadays, with movie theatres preferring to exhibit the one-sheet posters. Vintage one-sheet posters from the 1920’s and 1930’s measure 27” x 40”, while the late 1980’s to early 1990’s ones are generally 27” x 38/39” in size – the latter not having borders like the former did. Most modern one-sheets produced measure 27” x 41”.

Other film poster sizes include the half-sheet which is 28” x 22” in size (close to half the size of a one-sheet), a three-sheet which is 31” x 81” in size, and 30” x 40” posters. The latter were made between the 1960’s to early 1980’s and are considered a rare size. In the UK, a poster this size in landscape format is referred to as a quad. Banners are hard to find and have high collectible value, especially if they were printed on linen. These usually measured 81” x 24” in size, and had grommeted holes positioned along the top and bottom edges for hanging. Similar to banners, canvas burgees averaged 20” x 30” in size, were often colorful, with fringe at the bottom with grommeted holes at the top for hanging.

Tom Tyler burgee

More on different film poster sizes can be read about here:



Practical Home Theatre Guide

Motion Picture Art