Promotional movie posters go back to when motion pictures started, in the 19th century. Often produced in-house by the major studios, many movie posters were designed by famous graphic artists and illustrators such as Saul Bass, Robert McGinnis, Drew Struzan, Bob Peak, and Richard Amsel.
Before the mid-1980s, these promotional materials, like one sheets, lobby cards, stills, inserts, window cards, half sheets, 30 x 40s, 3-sheets, and 6-sheets, were lent or rented out by the major Hollywood movie studios to regional movie theaters through exchanges, or distributors. An exchange bundled the original movie posters and sent them out to a local theater for showings of the film. After the screenings, all the posters were returned to the exchange, to be re-used by the next movie theater. This role of the exchange was key to the survival of many of the original posters from the heydays of Hollywood films. And that's also why original movie posters show evidence of handling, like pinholes or tape marks and censor stickers.
In the mid-1980s, the major studios took complete control of providing films, posters, and all promotional materials directly to local movie theaters. The exchanges disappeared. The original movie posters for films made after 1985 are generally either 27 x 40 inches or slightly smaller, and many of these posters and collectibles can be found in unused, mint condition.
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