Mar 17, 2011

Eclectic Thoughts on Movie Posters

Lately, I’ve been posting with regard to different areas on writing, but I figured this time I’d take a mini-break.  After all, the subtitle at the top of the page is “Eclectic Thoughts on Writing and More.”  Let’s take some time once in awhile to talk about the “More” part.

For this post’s Eclectic Thought I choose collecting vintage movie posters, a hobby I’ve been into on and off for over a decade.  The Movie Poster tab at the top of the blog details some of my personal history with movie posters so I won’t risk redundancy by repeating myself again and again and ag…(Oops!  Too late!).  What I would like to do is go into a bit of detail about the hobby itself and my take on how it operates.

What is Vintage?
Personally, I collect what I call “vintage” movie posters.  What is “vintage” you ask?  I define it as an “original issue” meaning the poster was part of the original print run for the first theatrical release of a film.  Many films will print re-issues when a film is re-released, but I prefer the original issues.  Although there are many sizes, the standard you see in theaters tends to be 27x41 inches or 27x40 inches.  This is my favorite type, just to set the record straight.

Catching Your Eye…
I’m willing to bet a month’s salary that everyone at some point in their life has gone to the movies and whether you were waiting in line for tickets, popcorn, the bathroom or perhaps while you were strolling down the exit hall to the parking lot, your eye caught a glimpse of a poster hanging on a nearby wall in a glass display case.  Furthermore, you stopped and stood there for a few seconds thinking, “Wow!  That looks like an awesome movie!”  Whether or not the movie turns out to be good doesn’t matter at that moment because like a good book cover, the movie poster has sucked you in and you’re ready to shell out a few bucks to see the upcoming movie.

That’s the magic of a great movie poster.  Who doesn’t remember the red/yellow circular logo with the T-Rex skeleton, Harrison Ford staring you in the eye while brandishing a fedora and whip or Luke Skywalker holding up a lightsaber while Pricess Leia stands next to him, pistol in hand?  Some of the most iconic images of cinema were originally introduced through movie posters during their film’s original release with one simple goal - to catch your eye.

The Art of the Hobby…
Go back a few decades and movie poster collecting wasn’t taken very seriously.  Granted, even today it doesn’t necessarily get the same respect as baseball card collecting for example.  For a decent portion of the 20th century, a majority of movie posters were printed and distributed with films by the National Screen Service or NSS.  Posters were usually shipped folded to theaters, pinned up in a display case then taken down, never to be seen or heard from again.  Some were relegated to theater basements to collect dust, some thrown out and others sent back to the NSS for a small credit.  There really wasn’t a large effort or incentive to preserve these works of art.

Thankfully, a small community of collectors along with the treasures stashed away in theater basements as well as leftovers and returns from the now-defunct NSS have allowed the hobby to flourish and grow in the past 20 years as more people have taken interest.  The Learn About Movie Posters website has sprung up and is a good starting point for beginners.  There are also a host of commercial dealers they recommend who are devoted to selling original posters and are quite knowledgeable about the business.  As a sample, Cinemasterpieces and Filmposters.com are two great sellers with wonderful visual websites and a long history in the hobby.

Educate Yourself…
As with any hobby, one major point I can’t emphasize enough is EDUCATION, especially with movie posters.  Make sure you know the difference between a first-issue, re-issue or reprint.  Fakes, particularly with popular films like the original Star Wars or Scarface can run rampant, so make sure your dealer is reputable.  Learn About Movie Posters has some great articles and the Movie Poster Forum has a lot of helpful devotees who are more than happy to answer questions.

Why do you Collect Movie Posters?
Why do I collect movie posters?  Like most hobbyists, because I just love it.  As a kid I stared at those pieces of paper tacked up in the theater lobby, mesmerized by the celluloid world they offered up.  When I realized I could buy them, take them home and hang them on the wall, I was overjoyed and have been buying them ever since.  Like anything worthwhile it brings a sense of innate pleasure that’s hard to quantify, plain and simple and whether or not you ever purchase a movie poster for yourself, I’ll bet at least that the next time you go to your local theater, you’ll think of this post and end of looking at some of the posters on the wall as a result (even if you were going to look at them anyways I can still pretend that it was because of me!). J

Do you have a favorite hobby besides writing?  Tell us more about.