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Did you know... that in the late 1930s there were private companies that printed movie posters & lobby cards used in theaters?

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Added: 04/13/2015

In the 1930s, a constant headache for theaters was being sure of having movie posters for their current releases. Often, the posters for each film would travel with the actual film prints, and sometimes the theater before them might have forgotten to include the poster, it might have been defaced or torn, etc. If a theater didn't have posters to put up when the movie opened, it was obviously very frustrating! If they were in a big city they could likely visit that studio's "poster exchange" and get more, but what about those in small towns or out of the way places?

Several independent companies started in the 1930s which made posters of their own for new releases, and that way they could provide a back up for theaters in case they didn't get a studio issued poster. Often the posters from these companies were silk-screen posters, but they were often quite attractive, and virtually always had a completely different design from the regular studio issued poster. It is an absolute fact that posters from these companies are far more rare than the regular studio issued posters.

It is also a certainty that these posters were issued when the movies were first released. In fact, they were often created PRIOR to the movie's release, so that they could serve as teaser or advance posters (theaters rarely got the studio issued posters before receiving the actual movie). We have located an extremely rare original advertisement from Leader Press (one of these companies) which clearly states that their posters were available to theaters a full two weeks prior to each movie's release!

The best known and largest of these independent companies was "The Other Company". This was a company in New York that from roughly 1936 to roughly 1941 printed its own one-sheets and lobby card sets (and a very few inserts, half-sheets, three-sheets, 40x60s and stills) for three major studio movies (Warner Brothers, Paramount and United Artists, but no other studios). Their posters and lobby cards are always from the original release of the movie, and almost always have completely different artwork from the regular studio release (in some cases, these posters have images that are the equal of those from the regular studio release posters). They never have the name of the releasing studio on the poster or any of the lobby cards, but they almost always feature a tiny legal disclaimer in one corner (a very small box that says they weren’t made by the issuing studio) and cast credits only.

Because they had no company name on them, collectors in the 1960s started calling their product "The Other Company" (to distinguish them from studio issued items) and many collectors thought they were based in California or the Midwest. This continued for decades, but many years later, noted poster dealer/historian Walter Reuben discovered that the name of the "Other Company" was actually "Associated Displays Corporation" and that they were based in Manhattan, New York (oddly, no other collector had ever discovered their name for decades!). Even though their official name is now known, we still refer to them as "The Other Company", because so many collectors only know of them that way, and we don't want to confuse anyone!

"The Other Company" (Associated Displays Corporation) was not the ONLY such company (although they were the most successful). There were also "Woolever Press" of Los Angeles, California, "Leader Press" from Oklahoma, "Posters Inc." from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These companies also created one-sheets (and possibly other sizes) for movies that were distributed to theaters who (for one reason or another) had difficulty obtaining studio issue paper. These were also created during a movie's first release. Each of these companies surely primarily served the region of the country they were located in (so they could rush much-needed posters to a nearby theater).

Sometimes we are asked how posters and lobby cards from "The Other Company"  are valued compared to regular release posters and lobby cards. The answer for the posters depends first and foremost on the image and printing quality of each specific poster! Many of them have a silkscreen look, but some of these can be equal to the regular posters, especially those from Warners or MGM, as this was often a low point for those two studios, and sometimes they were issuing very drab posters (often duo-tone) at this time. But generally those that are not as nice as the regular studio posters often sell for half or less. In the case of lobby cards from "The Other Company", they often can sell for the same as similar cards from the regular studio set, because they often have entirely different images, and they are virtually always far more rare!

As far as the value of posters from the other similar companies ("Woolever Press", "Leader Press", and "Posters Inc.") those are more often not nearly as nice as the studio posters. Many of these are text only, or have only a tiny photographic image, and as you might expect, these often sell for far less than the studio issued one-sheets. But there are a few exceptions with great images that have sold for a lot!

See Also:
Did you know... that Warner Bros re-released their top 1930s movies at the end of World War II, and you can easily tell the reissues from the originals?
Did you know... that many years ago, there were "movie poster exchanges" where lots of early collectors obtained their posters?

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