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Types of Movie Posters

There are several common types of movie posters.  Click on each item below to learn more about the type of poster.

U. S.One Sheet 27" x 41" or 27" x 40"


This is the most common and MOST COLLECTIBLE type of American movie poster. Since a one sheet is used in the official advertising for films, they are prized by both collectors of memorabilia for specific films and of film posters themselves. The posters sold in general retailing stores to the public are in a poster size of 24” x 36”. These posters are mass produced by the thousands and are rarely considered to be collectible.  The most collectible of these are those that have been rolled and shipped in tubes to the movie theaters and have not been folded. Currently most posters are sent to cinemas rolled, for aesthetic reasons.  Nearly all one sheets printed before 1985 measure a full 27” x 41”. Most recent new one sheets since 1985 are approximately 27” x 40”. Please be aware that sizes can vary quite a bit sometimes and that posters do not have to measure EXACTLY 27” x 40” or EXACTLY  27” x 41”. One sheets are always in a vertical format. Up until the early 1980’s, most (not all) were issued folded with one vertical and three horizontal creases.  Some were issued tri-folded. THESE FOLDS ARE NOT CONSIDERED DEFECTS BECAUSE THEY WERE SHIPPED TO THE THEATERS THAT WAY.  The new size, 27 x 40” posters, are used in theaters today and now always are issued rolled. Most newer one sheets are printed double-sided (with a mirror image on the back) for use in a light box in front of the theaters. However, sometimes the studios print some poster single-sided. Most of today’s one sheets measure 27” x 40” and DO NOT have a white border like the 27”x 41” posters.

Window Card 14" x 22" unless trimmed


The movie studios issued a line of advertising poster that were displayed in places other than at the theater. They were placed in the windows of stores, barbershops, beauty salons, doctor and dental offices, bakeries, on telephone poles, etc. in and around a community to advertise the local theaters upcoming movie showings. The standard size window card measured 14” x 22” and was shipped flat and was sometimes shipped folded in half (not considered a defect) with the lobby cards. Some window cards are found with the top “blank” area trimmed. This reduces desirability for collecting purposes. The artwork on the window cards is usually not quite the same as that of the one sheet poster. They are normally printed in full color, but quite often lack the detail, color and artwork found on the other size posters for the movie. The window cards have a top blank border of approximately 4 to 6 inches. Theaters would write or staple a “snipe” into this border giving the appropriate show times. (A snipe was a strip of paper containing information that could be tacked, glued, pinned or stapled to a poster). Window cards were printed on a heavier, cheaper card stock and in large numbers  because theaters would normally purchase them in bulk. Because so many more window cards were needed, they were printed using a cheaper process and consequently most of these cards lack the color, detail and splendor of other sizes of movie art. However, because they were considered disposable advertising after the movie showing and not reusable, the majority, if not all of these posters, would have been destroyed after the movie showing. The need for window card advertising waned as TV and radio gained popularity and they are rarely used in today’s market. Therefore, fewer of these cards have survived and because of their small size they are more economically framed than the one sheets and are collected by some collectors.


Lobby Card 11" x 14"


Lobby cards are no longer used in theaters in the U.S. and are rarely printed for today’s films. They were introduced by movie studios in the early 1910’s. The first lobby cards were produced using a brown and white rotogravure process. Some of the brown and white cards were hand painted creating “color” lobby cards. By the 1920’s studios were using a photo gelatin/collotype process for printing their cards. Due to this process, these lobby cards look better when viewed up close than from a distance. As the name implies, these cards were placed around a theater’s lobby to advertise the films showing at the theater. They were sometimes mounted on boards and displayed just outside the theaters near the box office. When displayed as a set, the lobby cards would give a pictorial synopsis of the film. Many lobby card sets were numbered so that they could be placed in sequence in the series. The title card was always first with the other cards numbered to follow. Not all lobby cards were numbered. These small posters are on card stock (usually 11” X 14” in a horizontal format) and are generally produced in sets of eight, intended for display in a theater’s foyer or lobby. Lobby Cards have been issued in three different sizes and are normally issued in sets of 4, 8, 12 or 16, although a set of 8 is the most common. The three sizes are: 11” x14”; Mini 8” x 10” and Jumbo 14” x 17” although the 11” x 14” is the most common. A lobby set typically consists of one Title Card, a lobby card of special design usually depicting all key stars, listing credits and intended to represent the entire film rather than a single scene; and seven Scene Cards, each depicting a scene from the movie. The Lobby Cards were shipped flat: never folded. They are popular with collectors because of their economical frame-able size, easy to handle and great colorful artwork.  




The 14” x 36” insert card was one of the more popular sizes created by the motion picture industry. They were produced on card stock and were either rolled or folded into thirds (two folds) when shipping to theaters. These folds are not considered a defect because of this fact. Pre-1970s posters should NOT be on glossy, shiny paper. The insert card was another one of the poster sizes that were phased out by the motion picture industry in the mid-1980s. It was called an “insert” because it was inserted into special holders that were displayed around the theater lobby. The artwork on the inserts is normally different because it was a small and narrow poster as opposed to the larger one sheet. Sometimes, however, the artwork from the one sheet would be compressed and placed in a different scheme on the insert. The artwork used on the inserts is most often the same as that issued with the style “A” one sheet poster. These insert posters are not as common as one sheets. They are very popular with collectors because they are easy to handle and display and easily framed. Standard frames can be purchase rather than having custom frames made to display them.

BEWARE: COMMERCIAL COMPANIES (i.e. Portal) has released 14” x 36” commercial prints that closely resemble studio-issued material. Check for publisher’s name and/or reorder numbers in border. THIS SIZE IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO FAKES AND FORGERIES.


See Also:
Works of Art
What is Movie Art?
Not (Originally) for Public Sale

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We opened a brick and mortar Studio at 1014 E. Eleventh Street in Bowling Green, KY. If you are traveling North or South on I-65 please stop and say hello. You will glad you did. I have 500 Movie posters on display and hundreds in stock along with Movie/TV reference books , magazines, etc.

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1014 E. 11th Street
Bowling Green, KY 42101

(270) 991-0614