Past Posters
British Film Posters
Posters Database

Advanced Search

Remember Me:
Cinema Retro

Development of the Poster

in the UK

Poster development in the UK was very similar to other major countries around the world. Lithography was invented in 1798 , but was an expensive process and only used for major commercial advertising.

BUT the UK holds another SPECIAL connection to 'the poster'. In 1860, Wilkie Collins, a very popular writer in the UK and friend of Charles Dickens, wrote the novel 'The Woman in White' which became a top seller. A few years later, at a dinner party at Collins house in Thurloe Place, Frederick "Fred" Walker, a well known illustrator and friend of Collins, did a sketch of The Woman in White. Collins loved it. In 1871, when an adaptation of the novel was released on stage as a play, Walker was commissioned by Collins to create the sketch as a poster to advertise the play(shown on the left). This was the first time that a well-known artist had been commissioned to design a theatre poster.

By the 1880s and 1890s, the primary type of advertising for opera houses, vaudeville, music halls (called family theaters) and circuses was the long bill (shown on the right). It was a very simple posting of different acts that were scheduled to perform with a short description of the act itself. The one shown on the right is from 1886 in London.

This format was used for decades as a standard for the entertainment industry. Shown on the left is a poster from the Fred Karno Repertoire Company from 1910 when he brought Charlie Chaplin to the United States. As an FYI, Fred Karno was a British pioneering showman, who discovered Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel, assembled The Crazy Gang, and invented a style of shambolic comedy that survives today in the knockabout comedy routines of every British Christmas panto.

In the late 1890s, London was the largest city in the world (the 1900 census has London population at 6,480,000, with the second largest city in the world listed as New York at 4,242,000). With this distinction came the desire to be a center of the entertainment world as well. In 1894, London had its first poster show with the newest Art Nouveau poster craze created by Alphonse Mucha in Paris that same year.

With this poster craze came a wide variety of posters that were in almost every size imaginable on the larger performers.

As the film industry was beginning in the late 1890s, the advertising started as a listing on the long bill as a novelty and put between acts to give the stage performers a chance to set up. But within a few years films rapidly moved to dedicated facilities.

The posters moved from highlighting the novelty, to focusing on the equipment (new fire retardant equipment became major issue after several fires threatened the entire industry). Next the posters began focusing on the production companies until Charles Hepworth introduced the star system.

Poster sizes began to stabilize around 1910 with poster sizes used by the studios being dictated by the paper industry. By 1913 Westminister records show 2 companies: Cinema Poster Exchange at 3 Archer Street and International Printing Co. - 7 Bear Street - Charing Cross Road providing posters for the industry.

Unfortunately, due to recycling of paper during WWI because of paper shortages and then again in World War II, documenting the origins of each size is extremely difficult. Unlike the United States, the British film industry seemed to adopt a very simple and common system for poster size development.

Foolscap 13 1/2 x 17
oblong double
13 1/2 x 34
Pinched post 14 1/2 x 18 1/2
Crown 15 x 20
Post 15 1/4 x 19
Large post 16 1/2 x 21
Foolscap, double 17 x 27
Demy 17 1/2 x 22 1/2
Medium 18 x 23
Post, double 19 x 30 1/2
Royal 20 X 25
Crown, double 20 X 30
Large post,
21 X 33
Imperial 22 X 30
Demy, double 22 1/2 X 35
Medium, double 23 X 36
Royal, double 25 X 40
Foolscap, quad 27 X 34
Crown, quad 30 X 40
Imperial, double 30 X 44
Demy, quad 35 X 45
Medium, quad 36 X 46
double quad
40 X 60

On the left is a paper chart from British paper suppliers. (the chart is in inches): This will show the standard sizes from the paper industry with paper industry terminology. The purpose is to help establish the origin of the major sizes in the UK, other familiar sizes that were sporatically used in various campaigns.

This chart is a paper chart and doesn't include lobby cards or front of house cards because they are card stock and NOT paper stock.

From around 1910 to World War I, the primary posters used SEEMS to have been the Vertical Quad Crown and the 3 Sheet which was 3 times the size of the Quad Crown.

From World War I until around 1938, the main sizes seems to have shifted to the Crown, Double Crown and 3 Sheet.

There seems to have been major changes in the industry around that time.

The film industry was in the middle of making changes from the Moyne Report which was a committee to study the effects of the quotas set in 1927. (See Cinema Regulations).

In addition, in what I would consider a very unusual coincidence, in 1934, the Advertising Association was under fire as being a waste of money. They formed their inhouse Publicity Department and started a campaign to "teach the consumer... the immense value of advertising".

From 1936-1939 the focus from the Advertising Association was to make the British public aware of British products and create a pride in British products that were advertised. The full campaign was cut short due to the beginning of the war.......

HOWEVER..... it is VERY ODD that both the Moyne Report for change AND the Advertising Association advocating change were about the same time that the NEW Broadside British Quad appeared. So far I have not been able to substantiate the actual first posters issued or studio which issued them YET.

The beginning of the war in 1939 immediately created paper shortages and a completely different set of priorities on advertising and the film industry.... a lot of which will never be able to be fully documented.

Also notice that the size 27x40, 3 Sheet and 6 Sheet are MISSING from the chart. We will try to establish the origin of this size in the individual articles.

We have an article on individual sizes with more information. See our articles on Bus Stop, Crown, Door Panels, Double Crown, Front of House Cards, Half Sheet, Lobby Cards, Mini Quad, One Sheet, Presskits, Quad, Six Sheet, and Three Sheet

Home |Index | Meet Our Dealers |History | Artists | Studios |Map & Info
LAMP-Main | Distributors| Printers | Bookstore |Contact Us |

This section is for poster reference. Images found on this site are property of L.A.M.P. and are for reference purposes only with NO rights implied or given. See LAMP Disclaimer
A little BIGGER and a little BETTER each day - building a new direction... FOR ALL OF US