MOVIE POSTER SIZES & TERMS
This page provides information about the various sizes of original, vintage movie posters. There are exceptions to nearly every rule, but in general these guidelines apply to most examples.
You can also view our page that explains how we grade the overall condition of our movie posters
Movie Poster Condition Grading.
U.S. MOVIE POSTER SIZES:
Lobby cards are no longer used in theaters and rarely printed for today's films. These small posters (usually 11x14 inches in a horizontal format) were generally produced in sets of eight, intended for display in a theater's foyer or lobby. Lobby cards were sometimes printed in sets of four, primarily for low-budget films. A lobby set typically consists of one Title Card (TC), 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 (SC), each depicting a scene from the movie. Note: Smaller lobby cards (8 x 10 inch) were produced for some films up to the mid-1920s.
LOBBY CARD SET:
Complete set of lobby cards (usually eight), generally including a Title Card.
A vertical format poster, measuring 14x22 inches, on thicker stock paper with a blank area (usually four inches) at top for venue and playdates. These posters were generally displayed in local store windows, in exchange for free movie passes. Window cards are sometimes found with the top blank area trimmed off; this is not considered a major defect. With very few exceptions, this size was discontinued in the mid-1980s, although it remains to this day the standard format used for Broadway stage plays.
MIDGET WINDOW CARD, MINI WINDOW CARD:
Although the term midget is no longer politically correct, this is the name originally given to this diminutive poster size. Like their larger counterparts, mini window cards (measuring 8 x 14 inches) are printed on heavy stock with a blank space at top for venue and play date information. With a very few exceptions this size was discontinued by the early 1950s. Mini window cards from any film are quite rare.
A vertical format poster, measuring 14x36 inches, generally on thicker stock paper. This size is usually found with three horizontal folds; unfolded examples are much scarcer. This poster size was discontinued in the mid-1980s.
A horizontal format poster, measuring 22x28 inches, generally on thicker stock paper. The artwork often resembles the Title Lobby Card from the movie. This size is usually found with one horizontal and one vertical fold; unfolded examples are much scarcer. This poster size was discontinued in the mid-1980s.
Generally measuring approximately 27x41 inches in a vertical format, this is the most common style of American movie poster and the familiar one still in use in theaters today. Prior to the mid 1980s most 1-sheets were machine folded at the printer with one vertical and three horizontal folds. Exceptions exist, and unfolded 1-sheets have been found for films dating back as far as the 1940s, but these are quite rare. Starting around 1990 1-sheets were shipped to theaters unfolded (rolled) and their size was reduced to 27x40 inches. With the advent of back-lighted theater frames in the mid-1980s, the majority of modern 1-sheets are now printed with the image printed through to the back of the poster (double-sided).
A large vertical format poster, measuring roughly 41x81 inches, generally produced in 2 or 3 overlapping sections. This size poster was typically pasted to the outside wall of a theater; much rarer than 1-sheets.
A large billboard poster, measuring roughly 81x81 inches, usually produced in 4 or more overlapping sections and either displayed in the foyer of large theaters, or intended to be pasted outside.
24-SHEET or BILLBOARD:
A billboard poster, measuring roughly 9x12 feet in a horizontal format, usually produced in 12 or more overlapping sections and designed to be displayed on billboards or pasted to large building exteriors.
A small (usually 2-page) brochure advertising an upcoming movie. These little programs were distributed in the theater lobby to "herald" the upcoming attractions. Heralds are usually no larger than a small greeting card, on very thin paper stock, with artwork similar to a poster on the cover, tidbits about the movie and cast inside, and a blank area on the back where the theater could stamp its name and announce play-dates for the movie. Heralds are especially popular for films of the 1920s and 1930s for which original movie posters are non-existent or very hard to find.
A pressbook (sometimes called a Campaign Manual) is a studio-issued publication distributed to exhibitors containing information about marketing the film, usually including examples of most of the posters that were produced. Pressbooks can vary greatly in size and content, depending upon the movie they are designed to promote. The pressbook for a low-budget or B movie might be little more than a two- to four-page brochure, while pressbooks for bigger productions can be lavish full-color presentations containing dozens of pages of ballyhoo including detailed cast and crew information, as well as a wide variety of advertising materials such as posters, banners, lobby displays, merchandising product tie-ins and more. Pressbooks provide invaluable reference for rare sizes and styles of movie posters. Shown below are the front and back covers of the pressbook for Bullitt (note the variety of poster sizes offered on the back page).
Door panel posters measure 20 x 60 inches and are printed on paper stock. As the name implies, these long narrow posters were designed to be used on theater entrance doors. Usually produced in sets of four (and sometimes six), these posters nearly always display artwork not found on other posters from the campaign. Quite rare and collectible.
THIRTY BY FORTY:
Measuring 30 x 40 inches on heavy cardboard stock, these posters usually feature artwork identical to the 1-sheet, but in some rare exceptions they feature a completely different and sometimes unique image. Thirty by Forties are sometimes silk-screened rather than lithographed.
FORTY BY SIXTY:
Measuring 40 x 60 inches on heavy cardboard stock, these posters usually feature artwork identical to the 1-sheet, but in some rare exceptions they feature a completely different and sometimes unique image. Forty by Sixties are sometimes silk-screened rather than lithographed. These posters were often displayed outside of the theater and exposed to the elements, so few survive in good condition. The artwork for the Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman 40x60 is similar to other posters in the campaign, while the Vertigo 40x60 is completely different from most of the other posters produced for the film.
Subway posters (sometimes referred to as 2-Sheets because they are approximately the size of two standard 1-Sheet posters) measure approximately 45 x 60 inches in a horizontal format and are printed on heavy paper stock. These posters were intended for use in mass transit systems and often feature different artwork from the other posters in the campaign; quite rare compared to other poster sizes.
Banners come in a variety of sizes, but usually appear in a long horizontal format measuring roughly 24 x 80 inches (although numerous variations exist). Prior to 1940 most banners were printed on bookbinder’s cloth or cardstock and were often silkscreened; modern banners are usually printed on vinyl.
BUS SHELTER POSTER:
Bus Shelter posters generally measure 47 x 70 inches in a vertical format, designed to be displayed in glass-enclosed bus stop shelters. Usually printed on coated cardstock or vinyl. For the 2001 blockbuster Pearl Harbor, the studio produced a series of bus shelter posters in the style of WWII recruitment posters.
ONE-STOP, 1-STOP POSTERS:
One-stop refers to an unusual size U.S. poster that was produced from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s. One-stops nearly always combine the main image from the one-sheet along with an image of the lobby card set. Sizes and formats vary, but the most common one-stops measure approximately 41 by 77 inches in a horizontal format.
OTHER POSTER TERMS:
ADVANCE or TEASER: A style of poster intended for display prior to a film's release. An "Advance" poster is often similar to the regular poster but with an added line of copy (e.g., "Coming This Summer"). A "Teaser" is a special type of Advance poster designed to pique interest while revealing very little information about the film. All Teasers are Advances, but not all Advance posters are Teasers. Note the complete lack of text on the Teaser 1-sheet for the World is Not Enough; the Return of the Jedi poster on the right is an Advance 1-sheet printed before the title of the film was changed.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
Refers to a poster from the country in which the film was originally produced. For example, a German poster for a German film. Country of Origin posters are avidly sought after by knowledgeable collectors.
The term DayGlo is a registered trademark of the DayGlo company, but with respect to movie posters it refers to a poster produced with bright, fluorescent colors, usually in a silkscreen print.
DOUBLE-SIDED vs SINGLE-SIDED:
Beginning in the late 1980s, Studios began issuing 1-Sheets in double-sided format. Double-sided 1-Sheets are produced with the image printed through the entire poster for display in a theater light-box. When viewed from the back, a double-sided poster shows the reverse of the image printed on the front. Double-sided posters are favored by collectors because they are much harder to counterfeit.
Dry-mounting is an oxymoron because there is nothing dry about it. Dry-mounting is an evil process employed by incompetent framers seeking a quick method to smooth out a vintage poster. In practice, dry-mounting involves applying a heat-activated glue to a pre-cut board, laying a poster on top of the board, and then using a heat-gun (similar to a high-powered blow-dryer) to heat and activate the glue. Once the glue is hot, a roller is applied to smooth the poster to the board. The only problem with this method is that it completely destroys the value of the poster. Not only does the heated glue seep into the grain of the poster, but the entire process is completely irreversible. A dry-mounted poster might present well for a few years, but over time the gooey glue will eventually soak through the entire poster and stain the image itself. Dry-mounting a vintage poster is a very bad idea.
Holofoil posters are printed on a foil background and display different patterns or images when viewed from certain angles.
This term has been misused and abused. In general, it refers to a poster that is produced in the U.S. for use in another market (e.g., South America, Europe, etc.). International posters often feature artwork that is different - and sometimes more risque - than that featured on the domestic poster. International posters may also carry a modified title. A perfect example is the classic Elvis flick "Viva Las Vegas", a title which roughly translates into "Bravo The Fertile Plains" in Spanish. To avoid confusion, this film was released in most foreign markets under the slightly altered title of "Love in Las Vegas". International posters are also generally absent the M.P.A.A. rating and N.S.S. stock numbers.
Lenticular posters consist of layers of semi-transparent artwork printed on thin composite sheets of plastic which, when lit from behind, create a 3-dimensional holographic effect. Lenticular posters are almost always rigid and must be shipped flat with great care. Very expensive to produce and usually quite rare.
Linenbacking is a century-old archival process used to mount and preserve vintage posters. Because linenbacking is reversible, it does not have an adverse affect on the value of a poster. Moreover, particularly in the case of posters printed on low-rag highly acidic paper, it can stabilize the paper and prevent further deterioration thus ensuring the value of the poster in the future. The linenbacking process typically involves cleaning the poster in a PH-neutral deacidifying bath, then mounting the poster on a thin layer of acid-free paper and canvas. Once mounted, the poster can then be restored to address small tears or other imperfections in the artwork. Linenbacking a folded poster will greatly diminish the fold lines. The Jaws 1-Sheet on the left is in its original folded state; the poster on the right has been archivally linenbacked.
Mylar posters are printed on a highly-reflective thin foil background. Due to the fragile nature of these posters, very few survive in good condition. Combined with the fact that these posters are generally printed in very limited numbers, they are quite scarce and very collectible.
NATIONAL SCREEN SERVICE (N.S.S.):N.S.S. numbers are often a source of confusion for novice collectors because they are similar in format to the numbers used on limited edition prints. For example, posters for Jaws bear the N.S.S. number of 75 / 155. This does not mean that the poster is number 75 out of 155 printed; rather it indicates that Jaws was the 155th film distributed by the Service in 1975. N.S.S. numbers were typically printed on the front of a poster in the lower right margin and stamped on the back. In the mid-1980s with the advent of multiplexes and the elimination of many movie poster formats, the Studios assumed the printing and distribution of posters.
The National Screen Service was responsible for distributing the vast majority of U.S. Studio-issued movie posters from the late 1930s through the mid 1980s. In order to track their inventory of posters, the Service applied N.S.S. numbers to its posters, consisting of a two-digit number denoting the year of release, followed by a slash, followed by a one- to four-digit number representing the release order of that film in a particular year.
OTHER COMPANY MOVIE POSTERS:
Other Company refers to an independent printing company that operated from 1937 to 1940, providing an affordable alternative to Studio-issued movie posters. Other Company posters and lobby cards are noted for their use of bright, bold primary colors and the lack of Studio name. Examples of better known Other Company posters include The Adventures of Robin Hood and Angels with Dirty Faces, both of which are prized by collectors for their striking color and design. Other Company posters generally carry a disclaimer paragraph (“This advertisement was not produced by the maker or distributor of the motion picture…”). Other Company posters were primarily used for films released by Warner Bros., United Artists and Paramount.
Paperbacking is a conservation method in which a poster is mounted to Japanese rice paper and then attached to acid-free backing board. Similar to linenbacking, once mounted a paperbacked poster can then be restored to address small tears or other imperfections in the artwork. Paperbacking is usually reserved for card stock posters (lobby cards, inserts, half-sheets, window cards, 30x40s, etc.).
In the lexicon of movie posters, Poverty Row refers to films produced by a wide variety of low-budget studios. In reality Poverty Row was the actual physical location of several small cash-starved studios that operated near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street, which came to be known as Gower Gulch. But the term expanded to include any number of smaller studios, regardless of their physical location. With illustrious sounding names like Tiffany, Chesterfield, Grand National, Peerless, Victory, Majestic and Invincible, these studios churned out a steady supply of “B” movies, with a strong emphasis on serials and westerns. Sadly, very few survived to see the end of the Depression. In sharp contrast to their miniscule filming budgets (or perhaps because of this fact) Poverty Row studios often produced some of the most striking and exciting movie posters of the time, many of which are highly-prized by collectors.
Pre-Code Hollywood refers to certain films produced in the United States between the advent of Sound in the late 1920s and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code in July of 1934. Under the censorship of the Code, many elements of overt sexuality, deviance and criminality were effectively eliminated from the movies. The Code also contained specific restrictions on what imagery could be used on movie posters, prohibiting scantily-clad women, suggestive poses or salacious ad copy. Pre-Code film posters are highly prized by collectors.
REISSUE, RE-RELEASE, R-1949:
A reissue, or re-release (denoted by the letter R preceding the year) refers to an original movie poster printed for a subsequent release of a given film. Reissues are authentic movie posters, they just do not date to the film’s very first release. Many popular films - including Gone with the Wind, King Kong, Snow White, the Wizard of Oz, etc. – have had numerous reissues throughout the years. The value of reissue posters is based on the quality of the image, with older reissues generally commanding higher prices than newer ones. Some reissues are considerably more valuable than their original counterparts. Examples of reissue posters that exceed the value of originals include the 1964 reissue for the Hustler, the 1966 re-release of North by Northwest, and the 1972 reissue of Easy Rider (the art for which includes motorcycles which were sadly lacking from the original release posters). In each of these cases, the reissue artwork captures the film better than the bland original campaign.
United Artists reissued all of the Sean Connery-era Bond movies in 1980 and the posters for these re-releases are a common source of confusion for collectors because they not only used the same artwork for the re-release posters, but they also included the original copyright date in the lower left of the poster. The poster on the left below is the original 1962 first release one-sheet for Dr. No; the poster on the right is from the 1980 re-release. There are ways to tell them apart, as long as you know what to look for. The paper on the re-release posters is noticeably glossier than the originals, plus where the originals have the NSS number in the lower right corner the re-releases are missing the NSS info and simply have the title of the movie in CAPITAL LETTERS.
REPRINT, REPRODUCTION, RE-STRIKE:
Not to be confused with legitimate theatrical reissue movie posters, reprints are commercially printed reproduction posters sold in retail outlets. Movie poster reprints date as far back as the mid-1960s. One of the most prolific manufacturers was Portal Publications in northern California. These reprints are typically 24 x 36 inches in size, and bear the manufacturer’s name and address in the bottom border. Astute collectors usually recognize that an original Gone with the Wind poster shouldn’t have a zip code in the bottom border (Gone with the Wind was released in 1939; zip codes were introduced in 1963) but many of these reprints have been in circulation long enough now that they show up in attics and garage sales with a somewhat aged patina and can fool novice collectors. Reprints, repros and re-strikes are of little or no value. And please don't use the word repo; that is something that happens when you don't keep up with your car payments.
The term "Roadshow" refers to a practice from a bygone era. Before movies opened nationwide (and today worldwide) on the same day with massive television and social media campaigns, they were introduced in a few select cities around the United States in a limited number of theaters as a way of generating word-of-mouth publicity. This practice was generally reserved for only big-budget or epic films such as Ben-Hur, Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus, the Sound of Music and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Back in the 1950s and 1960s the studios made these Roadshow premieres a big event, selecting only the most prestigious theaters and offering reserved seats, special sound systems, and sometimes even a live orchestra. Sometimes - but not always - the studios produced different posters specifically for the Roadshow release. These can be distinguished from the general release poster either by having a different artwork campaign, or sometimes by a different type of film process listed on the poster. For example, the Roadshow release of the Sound of Music was screened in a film process known as Todd-AO. Roadshow posters for the Sound of Music can be distinguished from later releases because they include the Todd-AO logo.
Silkscreening is a printing technique that involves applying ink through a stencil, resulting in bold colors and strong contrasts within the art. Many older 30x40’s, 40x60’s and banners were produced using the silkscreen process. Although the design is usually more simplistic than typical stone or offset lithography, the results can often be quite striking.
The mini window card on the left has a snipe at the top listing the theater name and playdates; this is not considered a significant defect because this was common practice with window cards and mini window cards, and the snipe is only covering the blank top margin of the poster. The Monterey Pop poster was one of the more unusual marketing campaigns of the 1960s. In this case, the snipe contains virtually all of the information about the film. Exhibitors were given the poster along with the snipe and they could use it at their own discretion. Most chose to use it to cover the image of the topless woman.
A snipe is an informational sticker attached to a poster by movie distributors or exhibitors, usually to correct a credit, amend a rating or cover some outdated information (for example, snipes were commonly used to cover the 3-D logo on films that played in theaters that weren’t equipped to show them in that format). Depending upon their size and placement on the poster, snipes are considered a relatively minor defect. Window card posters quite often have a snipe placed at the top announcing the venue and play dates for the film; these snipes are not considered a defect.
Soundtrack posters were printed to advertise the soundtrack album of a feature film. Soundtrack albums date back to the late 1930s, and some of the most popular include West Side Story, A Hard Day's Night, the Graduate, Saturday Night Fever and Purple Rain. In certain cases, the popularity of a soundtrack can exceed the popularity of the film itself. For example, the reggae-infused soundtrack for the 1972 Jamaican film The Harder They Come consistently ranks high on best album lists, and is widely credited with introducing reggae to many parts of the world. The film itself was only a modest box office success, so it is quite possible that more people purchased the album than purchased a ticket to see the movie. Soundtrack posters were distributed exclusively to record stores and - just like movie posters - were not made available to the general public. Soundtrack posters usually feature artwork that is similar to the key art used for the movie poster campaign. Due to their relative scarcity, some soundtrack posters can be quite collectible.
Starchbacking is a conservation method usually reserved for posters that require little if any restoration. During the process, a poster is deacidified, cleaned and flattened, and a fine emulsion is applied to the reverse of the poster. Unlike linen- or paperbacking, the finished product is not mounted in any way.
Stone Litho movie posters are immediately recognizable by their deep texture and rich color saturation. The lost art of stone lithography involved a painstaking process of applying numerous layers of color to awkward limestone slabs which were then transferred to the printer’s paper. This now defunct process created some of the richest hued and most-detailed movie posters ever made.
STYLE A, B, C, D:
Studios sometimes produce a variety of 1-Sheets styles for the same film, typically identified as Style A, Style B, etc. This practice dates as far back as the 1910s, when a studio might typically release one style poster featuring the male lead and another featuring the female star. Often, a particular style comes to best represent the film and in this case that style commands a higher price than others. Below are the Style A and Style B 1-Sheets for Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd. Which style would you prefer?
This term usually applies to standard 1-Sheet movie posters. Prior to 1990, the majority of 1-Sheets were machine folded at the printer, with one vertical and three horizontal folds. A tri-folded poster does not have the vertical fold. Tri-folded posters are scarce and more desirable than posters with the standard folds. For example, the iconic 1-sheet for Jaws occasionally turns up in tri-folded condition; these posters are vastly superior to ones with standard folds where the vertical fold line bisects Bruce the shark in a very distracting way. The same is true for the iconic 1-sheet for Taxi Driver, where the vertical fold goes right through the length of Robert DeNiro's image.
Wild posting refers to the practice of pasting movie posters outside on walls and construction sites with little regard for local zoning ordinances. This type of on-the-fly advertising dates back over a century when traveling circus troupes would plaster their posters on any available blank space to announce their arrival in town. The movie posters used for wild posting are typically unfolded. They can be the same as the standard 1-Sheet or the Advance 1-Sheet, or in some rare cases they may have special art that does not appear on any other poster. The "psychedelic eye" style 1-sheet for 2001: A Space Odyssey shown below was used exclusively for wild posting. Because of the nature of the wild posting process, very few copies of these posters survive.