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Did you know... that movie poster sizes did not change for nearly 100 years? (Part One)

Return to Did You Know Archive
Added: 03/05/2012
When the very first movies were made in 1896, the first posters advertised the very fact that movies were being shown (which was enough to draw the public!) and most of these measured around 28" high by 22" wide, on a heavy stock (later on, this side would be used for portraits of top stars, which were made from the early 1910s to the early 1940s by all studios), and also for "jumbo" window cards).
      The first posters for specific films were made around 1900, and for those the filmmakers chose to use a size that was standard for magic posters and other live shows, which was called a "one-sheet". It usually measured 28" x 42" (a perfect two by three ratio), although by the late 1910s almost all studios had switched to a 27" x 41" size (likely something caused by the size of the printing presses used at that time).
      They were called "one-sheets" because they would also print larger posters, and because presses of that time could not print larger than a one-sheet, they would make magic posters consisting of TWO one-sheets, THREE one-sheets, SIX one-sheets, EIGHT one-sheets, TWELVE one-sheets, and TWENTY FOUR one-sheets! Naturally, these were called "one-sheets", "two-sheets", "three-sheets", etc.
      When film studios imitated these sizes, they soon discovered that movie theaters did not like so many sizes, so they settled on just using one-sheets, three-sheet, six-sheets, and twenty four-sheets (although they would occasionally make other sizes on special occasions).
      This continued all the way to the very early 1930s, when studios finally got access to presses that could run bigger sizes, and at that time the three-sheets were printed on two-sheets (one large and one small), six-sheets were printed on four sheets (two large and two small, and 24 -sheets were printed on twelve sheets) BUT BECAUSE THE ORIGINAL NAMES FOR THESE POSTERS WERE SO INGRAINED BY THIS POINT, A THREE SHEET WAS STILL CALLED THAT (even though it only had two pieces!).
     There were next-to no changes made to these posters until around 1980. See next week's Part II for more!

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