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The category of commercial posters represents the thousands of posters that are designed, issued and distributed for direct sales to the public. They come in all types and sizes representing literally thousands of subjects. They can feature cars, models, animated characters, sports stars, movies and movie stars.

One small area of commercial posters is dedicated to the movie industry. Because of public demand for movie related materials, some commercial printing companies issue posters known as commercial movie art. This is the area that were addressing here.
The purpose of legitimate movie art is to excite the curiosity and desire to spend your hard-earned money to SEE the movie that has been released.

The purpose of commercial posters is to provide you a momento to remember your favorite parts or star ONCE YOUVE SEEN THE FILM. (How many times have you said I dont know what it is, but lets buy it anyway???)

Looking at these different purposes, it is easier to understand the differences in the material. Theater material is normally larger, better quality and more expensive to make because its trying to entice you to go to your theatre to see the film. Commercial posters are smaller in size, less quality and less expensive to get you to buy.

The major factor that differentiates legitimate movie art from commercially produced posters is that legitimate movie art is never intended for sale to the public. They represent advertising materials that are designed for and distributed to the theaters to advertise a particular film. Legitimate theater art is printed in limited numbers that are needed for that advertising campaign.

Commercial posters, on the other hand, are printed en masse, and can be reproduced whenever there is enough demand. Even though sometimes the same artwork may be used (sometimes even with the credits), they are not limited to just that. Major scenes, stars, sayings and even sometimes spoofs and insinuations are produced for sale to the public. These posters are then distributed to major outlets for public consumption.


Although they can sometimes look identical at face value, there are a number of ways to determine if a poster is commercially produced.

The most obvious difference is the size of the poster. Commercial posters are normally the standard size of 24x36 or smaller. Legitimate movie posters are 27x41 or 27x40 (with a few exceptions - See Mini sheets)

Another major difference can be found in the border of the poster. Commercial posters normally contain a reorder number and the name of the printer or distributor. Original movie posters never have a reorder number and almost never have the name of a printer. (Some foreign movie posters do contain printer info though).

Most commercial posters are distributed through chain stores, discount stores and other retail stores. Original movie art is normally found in collectible and antique shops; through legitimate movie poster collectors or dealers; or at movie poster auctions or trade shows.

Some of the major commercial poster printers that you may find are:

Portal Publishing: Portal was one of the largest distributors of commercial forms of movie art, quite often producing posters with credit info and, in some cases, half sheets the same size as legitimate theatre art. Portal always puts their name on the bottom corner with a reorder number. Even though Portal does not distribute the selection of movie posters that it use to, Portal has probably caused more confusion to new collectors than any other commercial company.

OSP: (One Stop Posters): OSP has become one of the largest distributors of commercial posters. Their movie section still produces a variety of sizes and types for favorite movies. OSP specializes in Disney animation movie art.

Western Graphics, American Art, Funky, Po Flake, Classic and many others have also put out a variety of movie oriented material.

Another group of posters that are considered commercial by most collectors are reprints. For more information on reprints, Click here


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