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 we’re 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 YOU’VE SEEN THE FILM.
(How many times have you said “I don’t know what it is, but let’s buy it
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 it’s
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.
DISTINGUISHING THE DIFFERENCE
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 24”x36” or smaller.
Legitimate movie posters are 27”x41” or 27”x40” (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
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 a look at the commercial posters in our archive,