As long as films have been made, there have been film posters to go with them. The first ever movie poster to be made with the sole intention of promoting a single film, was for the French short comedy L’Arroseur arrosé (1895) directed by Louis Lumière (1864-1948). It was designed by Marcellin Auzolle and depicts an audience watching the film it was promoting.
Posters had been used to promote films since 1890, but this was the first poster made to promote a specific film.
Before the 1980s, most posters were sent out to theatres by the studio along with copies of the film and had to be returned when the film was no longer running. Posters were recycled to new theatres and the result was that by the end of a film’s theatrical run, they were often too damaged to keep. Because of this, real vintage movie posters are very hard to come by and are often extremely expensive. Luckily, many have been reproduced, and they look very good.
Posters are usually categorised into several groups. One of these is the smaller “lobby cards”, which often depicts scenes from the film:
The teaser poster is distributed a while before the release of the film, and is designed to evoke interest without giving too much away.
Film posters can be artistic, classy, funny and silly, and they often reflect the era in which they were made, and the genre of its subject. Some focus on the star of the film, while others emphasise the director, plot, effects or monster. While vintage posters were often drawn or painted, modern ones are usually photos. There are some real gems out there!