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Next to movie studios, in the United States, the National Screen Service (NSS) had the most direct and profound impact on the movie paper advertising industry. From 1940 until the mid-1980s, the NSS was the "control center" for almost 90% of the movie paper distributed. In essence, the NSS turned the movie paper advertising materials into an industry all their own.

By the mid 1940s most major studios turned over the production and distribution of all movie paper advertising to the NSS. NSS produced, printed, distributed and stocked all of the materials (For more indepth, see a complete history of the National Screen Service, see below)

NSS had established several regional offices throughout the United States. In 1943, after losing a legal battle relating to monopolizing the market, NSS subcontracted with a number of independent exhibitor exchanges throughout the country (For more indepth, see our article on NSS vs Independent Exchanges). These independent exhibitor exchanges would get their movie paper from NSS and distribute or rent them directly to theatres. Theatre owners would simply come to one of the NSS offices or one of the independent subcontractors to get their advertising materials. If they were rented, they would be returned after use for credit toward other advertising materials.

In an effort to regulate and control the materials going through it, the NSS established a dating and coding system. This control system was actually established earlier for handling trailers but then crossed over to the paper as well. An NSS number was stamped on all paper distributed through them. In addition, a special stamp was used on the outside of the materials. The NSS also printed the NSS Tag on all materials. This tag basically set the guidelines for use of the materials the materials were on loan only and were to be returned. The NSS would also indicate variations such as advance, style, awards, or review.

The mid-1980s saw a slow but drastic change in the movie industry. Individual screens gave way to multiplex theatres with multiple screens. With more than one film sharing the lobbys advertising space, there was less room for each theater to promote the film. A total readjustment of the advertising materials had to take place. This readjustment caused the phase out of certain sizes of materials (including half-sheets, three-sheets, inserts, 30 x 40's, 40 x 60's and lobby card sets). With fewer sizes to deal with, movie studios began to control their own movie paper advertising, thus causing the phase out of many NSS offices around the country. By the end of the 1990s, there were only three regional offices still remaining. A small percentage (approximately 15%) of the movie paper advertising materials were being handled through these offices. As of September, 2000, the remaining NSS offices were bought out by Technicolor, Inc. Technicolor plans to continue operating these offices, with particular emphasis on the one-sheet.


The NSS Number
The NSS Tag
The Demise of National Screen Service
NSS number log

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The History of the National Screen Service

NSS vs Independent Poster Exchanges

Independent Poster Exchange Log

Sample Studio Contract


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