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Did you know... what the standard U.S. movie poster sizes are?

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Added: 01/27/2014
Last week we described the different sizes of posters used by many countries other than the U.S. This week, we provide some basic information we know about each standard U.S. poster size (we omit some more obscure sizes due to the length of this article). This does not comprehensively cover everything there is to know about these sizes, but it does give you a good introduction for each. The list is in alphabetical order.

NOTE: If you have information to add about any of the below whether it be additional poster size descriptions, corrections, historical information, or ANYTHING ELSE worth noting, pleasecontact us so we can update our information!

30" x 40" posters (Thirty by Forty posters) get their name from the measurements of the poster (they were called this in the pressbooks the studios sent to theater owners). They are printed on a heavier paper stock, similar to that of post-1940 lobby cards (unless otherwise noted above). The heavy stock tends to crease easily when rolling and unrolling the poster (almost all 30x40s were never folded), so it is difficult to find 30" x 40" posters without many small crease marks (sometimes they are barely noticeable, and sometimes they can be very distracting). These were made from the 1930s to the 1980s or so, but the ones from before 1950 and from the last few years of production are mostly incredibly rare!


40" x 60" posters (Forty by Sixty posters) get their name from the measurements of the poster (they were called this in the pressbooks the studios sent to theater owners). They are printed on a heavier paper stock, similar to that of post-1940 lobby cards (unless otherwise noted above). The heavy stock tends to crease easily when rolling and unrolling the poster (almost all 40x60s were never folded), so it is difficult to find 40" x 60" posters without many small crease marks (sometimes they are barely noticeable, and sometimes they can be very distracting). These were made from the 1930s to the 1980s or so, but the ones from before 1950 and from the last few years of production are mostly incredibly rare!


BANNERS

Cloth banners measure approximately 3 feet by 10 feet (36" x 116" inches) and were made for most movies of the 1920s and 1930s. They were printed on a heavy cloth material, and most often had metal "grommets" (round metal rings) inserted into the borders of the cloth at various intervals and in the corners, which allowed theaters to hang the banners by putting the "grommets" over nails in the walls. While one was made for most movies, very few survive, due to their size and the fragility of the cloth material. Often, the cloth is fragile enough that the banner is placed on a linenbacking, so it can be easily displayed. Very few banners are known to have survived, especially from major movies.

Paper banners are silk-screened and measure approximately 24" x 80" (unless otherwise noted above). This type of silk-screened poster often has a photographic inset image. These were applied at the printer after the posters were silk-screened. It is also important to note that it is extremely difficult to find paper banners in better than very good condition, because they crease and scuff incredibly easily! Some people call these "drive-in" posters and think they were only used there, but we have never seen any proof of this.

Vinyl banners are made in all shapes and sizes, most often in the past 20 years, and we always note the exact measurements of them on the auctions. Given that they are virtually always issued in advance of the film, we do not usually note "advance" or "teaser" on vinyl banners.


Door panels, as their name indicated, were displayed on the doors of the movie theater. They measure 20" x 60" and they were usually printed in a set (often a set of 4, but sometimes other quantities). Each poster in the set has a different image. It is rare that an entire set is found together, but rather it is typical that each door panel enters the hobby as a single poster. Many collectors enjoy door panels because they can be displayed on doors in their homes. Door panels are also enjoyed because they typically have different artwork than the standard (one-sheets, three-sheets, etc) posters for a movie. Door panels were not printed for all movies nor did all theaters use door panels in their ad campaigns, so door panels are very rare.


Half-sheets measure 22" x 28" and are printed on heavy card stock, the same as inserts, and similar to that of lobby cards. They were often folded twice immediately after printing, and this is in no way considered a defect. Most movies have two different styles of half-sheets. One (the "A' style, and often they have a "T/A" in the corner) is almost always the exact same image as the title lobby card. The other (the "B' style) is almost always an image that appears on no other size of movie poster for that movie! Note that these were almost always referred to as "22x28 displays" in pressbooks, and NEVER as "half-sheets". That term is one that was coined in movie poster exchanges and was carried over into the hobby, because half-sheets ARE roughly half the size of one-sheets. But if you are a purist, they ARE "22x28 displays"!


U.S. Heralds were made from the 1910s to the 1980s or so. Theaters would order heralds by the thousands (they usually cost around $3 per thousand!). They would then hire people to stand on busy street corners and pass them out to all who walked by. Since the vast majority of people looked at the herald for a moment and then threw it away, it is not surprising that not many heralds survive. Most heralds are a single sheet of paper that is folded in half, creating four small pages. The front of the herald usually has just the title of the movie and images of the stars (like a small poster) and the two middle pages usually have a lot of information about the movie along with more images (and sometimes these images are found nowhere but the herald). The back page is usually blank for the theater to print in their name and play dates, to let people know where the movie was playing and when. Sometimes one or more of the pages were full-color, and often some of the pages were two-color. A herald is usually the most inexpensive way to get an original item from a classic movie! Most pressbooks would have a sample herald glued in to the first or last page of the pressbook. Some of the heralds we offer came from theaters, and some originated from pressbooks. There is little difference except for the lack of local printing on the pressbooks ones (sometimes this is replaced with a list of the price of the herald in quantity).
     The nicest thing about heralds is that they often represent an extremely affordable way to purchase an original item from a classic movie, and often you get a full-color poster image! And also, sometimes they represent the only way you can find an original item from some movies where it seems that next-to-nothing else survives!


Inserts measure 14" x 36", and are printed on heavy card stock, the same as half-sheets, and similar to that of lobby cards. They were often folded twice immediately after printing, and this is in no way considered a defect.


Lobby Cards measure 11" x 14" and were almost always printed in sets of 8 (some lower budget movies only had a set of 4). Many lobby card sets (usually pre-1970 sets) have a "title card". A title card normally has artwork and the credits from the movie, and is different in appearance from the other seven cards in the set. The artwork is usually the same as that of the artwork on one of the styles of half-sheet (the "A' style, and often they have a "T/A" in the corner). It is very difficult to find complete lobby card sets from pre-1970 movies, as almost all of these were long ago broken up and sold by the individual card. In most cases, they are printed on a card stock that is thicker than typical poster paper (though there are some exceptions for cards from some low budget films and with some 1980s to present cards).


Jumbo lobby cards were made for most movies in the 1920s to 1940s. They were larger than regular lobby cards (usually 14x17 inches), and had several other differences. One is that they were quite often printed without borders (called a "full bleed"). Another is that they were sometimes horizontal (as are regular lobby cards), but were also sometimes vertical (and a set could contain some of each). Jumbo lobby cards were made in full sets of eight, and sometimes there were the same (or similar) scenes as in the regular set, but often they had entirely different scenes, and often entirely different border art. They are far more rare than regular lobby cards, and yet because few collectors know of them, they often sell for the same or much less as lobby cards from the corresponding title!


One-sheets are the standard movie poster size, what you see outside of any movie theater. From 1896 until roughly 1990, almost all actual theater-used one-sheets measured 27" x 41" (since then, most one-sheets measure 27" x 40"). Up until 1980 (or thereabouts) the vast majority of one-sheets were folded twice horizontally and once vertically (this is in no way considered a defect). Sometime during the late '70s, studios began printing one-sheets rolled. Most one-sheets after the mid-1980s are printed unfolded, though it is still possible to find some newer posters folded. 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 posters single-sided. All of the one-sheets (unless otherwise noted) being sold by eMoviePoster are original vintage theatrical one-sheets (either used in a theater or printed for use in a theater)!


Two-sheets are special posters that were made mostly for low-budget movies of the 1940s and 1950s (the ones we have seen have been mostly from westerns or sexploitation movies). They somewhat resemble 40x60s, except these are usually printed on two one-sheet sized pieces of paper, designed to overlap. Sometimes they are printed on a single sheet, and they are always found folded, and not rolled. They measure exactly twice the size of a one-sheet (41" x 54"). They sometimes have the same or similar image as the one-sheet, but are far more rare (we have only seen perhaps a dozen of these in all the years we have been selling movie paper)!


24-sheets measure approximately 9 feet by 20 feet and were originally (in the 1920s) printed in 24 one-sheet sized (27" x 41") pieces. Over the years, as printers were able to print on larger sized sheets, the number of sheets needed for a 24-sheet gradually diminished until the point where most were printed on 12 unequal-sized pieces.


One stop posters are a very special kind of poster! They have two different style one-sheets from a movie, along with the full set of eight lobby cards, all printed on a single sheet of one-sheet type paper (with the lobby cards in the middle between the two one-sheets)! They were used in non-U.S. countries, and normally there was both an English and Spanish language versions (which makes it seem likely that these posters were used in South America, and possibly other parts of the world). What is most interesting about these unusual posters is that often one of the one-sheets is a style that either was only used on rare international one-sheets, or a style that appears to have NEVER been used anywhere else! Of course, some theaters would cut these posters up so that they could have two "one-sheets", and we have often seen incomplete one-stops that have one or two-thirds missing. Also, the creators of these posters obviously quickly learned that there was a demand for just one of the posters from these one-stops, and they also created a size called "short-stop", which had only one one-sheet image (and which therefore is similar to the regular one-sheet from the movie).


Bus stop posters typically measure between 45" x 68" and 48" x 72" and are usually printed on a coated heavy stock paper for display outside. Many are issued double-sided, and there are often multiple styles made for a single film. They will often contain different artwork than that of the one-sheet, and can therefore be highly desired by collectors. Finally, given that they are virtually always issued in advance of the film, we do not usually note "advance" or "teaser" on bus stops.


Personality posters were created in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, and early 1940s. All of the major studios created sets of these that usually measured exactly 22" x 28". Most often they were taller than they were wide, but occasionally they would be horizontal. Sometimes, they had borders, and sometimes the image went to the edge of the poster. Many times they were on a deluxe linen-like stock of paper. In every case, the personality poster would have a full-color image of a famous star from that studio, with only the name of the star and the studio written at the bottom. These were offered to theaters showing movies of that star (often in pressbooks for those movies). It is interesting to note that the image on these posters is often very close to actual life-size! While at least 100 different special personality posters were made in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, and early 1940s, few are known to have survived, as few theaters ordered them, and fewer still saved them!


Pressbooks were special advertising booklets sent directly to theater owners that were playing the specific movie advertised in a particular pressbook (almost all pressbooks were for one movie only, although there were some double-bill pressbooks). A pressbook was made for every movie, starting in the early 1910s through the 1970s (somewhere in the late 1960s, studios introduced "presskits", which included brochures and stills from the movie, but NO images of the posters, and for a few years, they made both, but then they stopped making pressbooks and only made presskits). Each pressbook is filled with lots of information about the movie that is contained no where else, including pictures of the posters and articles and ads as well, and the cover of the pressbook is often a color poster that could be framed, and on older pressbooks there is often a "sample" full-color herald attached to the pressbook, and yet, because many collectors don't know about pressbooks, the entire pressbook often sells for less than the price of a single lobby card from the same movie! Note that pressbooks of the 1920s and 1930s often have color covers and lots of elaborate artwork, whereas pressbooks of the 1950s and 1960s often have black & white covers and much less artwork. Also note that pressbooks often contain single sided pages. When we give a page count for a pressbook, it refers to the number of SIDES of pages that have printing. If a pressbook has 10 pages with printing on one side each, it would say 10 pages above; if it has 10 pages with printing on both sides each, it would say 20 pages. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT PRESSBOOKS!


Presskits came into existence sometime in the 1960s, primarily as a replacement for pressbooks (although there was a period of several years when both were made for most films). Basically, theaters started running fewer and fewer newspaper ads, and switched to newspaper and radio advertising, and so pressbooks became pretty superfluous. The studios would prepare a presskit which was a cardboard folder with two pockets within it. Usually the outside of the folder had the title of the film and sometimes an illustration. Inside of one pocket would be a set of 20 or so 8" x 10" stills from the film and in the other pocket were 10 or more supplements (on inexpensive copy paper), which described the film and the actors (basically the type of text material that used to be in pressbooks). Sometimes collectors would buy presskits and sell some or all of the stills individually to other collectors. It is rare to find a presskit with most or all of its original stills and most or all of its original supplements. For each presskit we offer, we note how many stills it contains and how many supplements.


Six-sheets are posters that measure approximately 81" x 81". When the studios began making posters, they could only print sizes up to 27" x 41". So, in order to make the 81" x 81" poster they printed six sections of the smaller size that could be combined to form the larger poster (this is why they are called "six-sheets"). Beginning in the early 1930s through the 1980s, new technology allowed for six-sheets to be printed with 4 sheets (usually two larger sections and two smaller sections). Sometime in the 1970s some six-sheets were printed with 2 three-sheet-sized sections. The separate pieces were designed to overlap, so that when they were glued together (or nowadays linenbacked together) they match up so that they appear to be a single printed image. The image we show of non-linenbacked six-sheets has the individual sections overlapping each other to give you the best sense of the overall poster.


8x10 stills are photographs usually printed on thin glossy photo paper that were created for all movies from the 1910s through the present day. Studios would often issue dozens of different stills for each movie (usually well over 100!), and they would be sent to theaters showing the movies. Starting in the 1960s, many dealers began reproducing stills (sometimes from the original negatives), and sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between original theater-used stills and reproductions (the main differences are the quality of the paper and the crispness of the photographic image and the sharpness of the letters or numbers).
     eMoviePoster only sells original vintage stills that either came directly from theater owners (or closed down theaters), or from poster exchanges, or from longtime collectors who purchased directly from either of the above, and we unconditionally guarantee that every still we sell is original! You should always be sure to only buy original theater-used stills (which have collectible value, and have continued to rise in value over the years) as opposed to reproductions, which have only decorative value (and never rise in price).

  • "Unnumbered color stills". These are extremely similar to black & white 8" x 10" stills, except for being in color of course, and they are almost always printed on virtually the same exact paper as black & white stills. Just like with black & white stills, there can be a very large number of different ones (it seems that they made a different number of unnumbered color stills for each movie).
     
  • "Numbered color stills". These are also very similar to black & white 8" x 10" stills, except for being in color of course, and they too are printed on virtually the same exact paper as black & white stills. Just like with black & white stills, there can be a very large number of different ones. They look just like the unnumbered colored stills (see above), EXCEPT they have tiny numbers in the bottom left, center, or right, and there are often exactly 12 of them (although sometimes there is a lesser or greater number, depending on the movie).
     
  • "English/U.S. color stills" that were printed in England (many say "Printed in Great Britain", but some say "Printed in England"), but they ALSO have NSS info (many have NSS numbers, but some do not), and were likely printed for use in both countries. They can be numbered or unnumbered, and are sometimes found in sets of 8 or 12. It seems that most of these "English/U.S." color stills come from MGM, and that they were made between the 1950s and 1970s, and it may simply be a case of MGM printing these in England for use in the United States, and they may have also made front of house lobby cards for the same titles. If anyone knows more about this, please contact us.
     
  • Key book stills were created by the studio as the movie was being filmed. They would basically take pictures of absolutely everything (the sets, the actors in costume, images throughout filming the scenes, etc). They would then take those pictures and put them into notebooks. Sometimes they simply put punch holes in the stills and put them in the binders that way, but they would often get damaged or pulled out of the binder, so they started putting many of them on a linen backing (sometimes just a thin strip of linen on the back of the left edge, and sometimes full linen). Sometimes they would put an extra inch on the left or top of the still and use that for the punch hole area.
        The purpose of these was obvious. If at any point they needed to refer to how something should look, they would have these great sets of stills (often many hundreds of them) as reference. Say they were editing the movie and they realized they wanted to shoot more film for one specific scene. They could use the keybook stills to determine exactly how the actors were dressed, where they were standing, etc.
        As the years since the movies were made increased, studios cared less and less about keeping these reference materials, and they would often dispose of these one way or another.
        So they are not incredibly rare, but they are definitely desired by collectors. Very few collectors consider the punch holes or the linen backing a defect of any kind.
     

  • "8" x 10" mini lobby card sets" which were printed on titles where the studio also made 11" x 14" lobby card sets (and on later titles, where the studio also made 11" x 14" color still sets). Many collectors are surprised to learn that these were first made in the 1910s, as ones from that period (and the  early 1920s) are EXTREMELY scarce! Somewhere in the 1920s, the studios stopped making them (likely because not enough theaters ordered them). In the 1930s to 1960s, studios made color still sets, which were different from the set of eight lobby cards. In the late 1960s, studios slowly began again making mini lobby cards, which were normally exact duplicates of the 11" x 14" cards or stills, except for the size, including the type of paper stock used. Almost always, these mini lobby cards from the 1960s on are numbered from 1 to 8, and a set contains exactly 8 cards, but in rare cases, they are unnumbered, or contain more or less than 8 cards. We refer to these as 8" x 10" mini lobby cards when they are from the 1960s on, but as 8" x 10" lobby cards when they are from the 1910s and 1920s.

11x14 stills were made for most movies along with 8" x 10" stills, but very few of these "oversized" stills survive. While most theaters from the 1920s on received 8x10 stills, few received 11x14 stills, which were often printed on a higher quality paper stock than the 8x10s, and are often the work of famous studio photographers (such as Clarence Sinclair Bull, Ruth Harriet Louise, and many others), who would often be credited on the still. Some speculate that these larger higher quality stills were mostly only sent to major theaters, which would help account for their far greater rarity!


8x10 lobby cards are usually exactly the same as the 11x14 lobby cards, but printed in an 8x10 size. Most studios offered theaters both size cards from the 1910s through the early 1930s, when the smaller sized cards were gradually phased out of production.


Subway posters measure approximately 45" x 60" and are similar in size to 2 one-sheets laid side-by-side. They are printed in advance of a movie coming out, and therefore are "advance" posters. They have their name because many of them were given to teenagers to post all over New York City (illegally!) prior to a movie's opening, and they would often post many of them in New York's subways (there are also bus stop posters of a different size and shape, and you can guess where those were posted). Sometimes collectors removed them from where they were displayed, and sometimes unused posters have been discovered, and were sold in the collectors market. Unused subway posters are, of course, in far better condition than those removed from walls. Finally, given that they are virtually always issued in advance of the film, we do not usually note "advance" or "teaser" on subway posters.


Three-sheets are posters that measure approximately 41" x 81". When the studios began making posters, they could only print sizes up to 27" x 41". So, in order to make the 41" x 81" poster they printed three sections of the smaller size that could be combined to form the larger poster (this is why they are called "three-sheets"). Beginning in the early 1930s through the 1980s, new technology allowed for three-sheets to be printed with 2 sheets (usually one larger section and one smaller section). Sometime in the 1970s most three-sheets were printed with a single three-sheet-sized piece. The separate pieces were designed to overlap, so that when they were glued together (or nowadays linenbacked together) they match up so that they appear to be a single printed image. The image we show of non-linenbacked three-sheets has the individual sections overlapping each other to give you the best sense of the overall poster.


Window cards measure 14" x 22" and were printed on heavy card stock (thicker than lobby cards, half-sheets, or inserts). Almost all window cards were printed with a blank space (usually 4") above the poster image, where a local theater could print in their name and play dates (sometimes they would glue on snipes, handwrite the information, or leave the top blank). Sometimes the top area (above the image) is trimmed off, and this is only considered to be a minor defect.


Jumbo window cards measure 22" x 28" and were printed on heavy card stock, the same as regular window cards (thicker than lobby cards, half-sheets, or inserts). They are basically the same as the regular window cards, except much larger and consequently much more striking! They are also far more rare than regular window cards, and many collectors have never seen or heard of them! Almost all jumbo window cards were printed with a blank space (usually 4") above the poster image, where a local theater could print in their name and play dates (sometimes they would glue on snipes, handwrite the information, or leave the top blank). Sometimes the top area (above the image) is trimmed off, and this is only considered to be a minor defect.


Mini window cards measure 8" x 14" and were printed on heavy card stock (thicker than lobby cards, half-sheets, or inserts). Almost all window cards were printed with a blank space (usually 4") above the poster image, where a local theater could print in their name and play dates (sometimes they would glue on snipes, handwrite the information, or leave the top blank). Sometimes the top area (above the image) is trimmed off, and this is only considered to be a minor defect.
Mini window cards are certainly far more scarce than title cards or regular window cards, and probably about equally as scarce as jumbo window cards. There were two early collectors who loved this size, and they accumulated a high percentage of all that are known (it is likely that most theaters never ordered them, which would account for the rarity). Some people really like them, and sometimes they go for more than the title card, but sometimes less.

See Also:
Did you know... that almost every country used different sizes of posters, but that there were mostly standard sizes within each country?
Did you know... that movie poster sizes did not change for nearly 100 years? (Part One)
Did you know... that after barely changing for nearly 100 years, one-sheets had several changes starting around 1980? (Part Two)
Did You Know... that Italian movie posters are among the hardest of all countries to date?
Did you know... that there are several different types of 8" x 10" publicity movie stills?
Did You Know... that there are German and Japanese posters from the late 1940s printed with English on them?


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