Movie Poster Formats

Movie posters came in a variety of sizes. Operators would order posters, from National Screen Service, based on the type of display cases in their theatre. The one sheet poster was the most common poster, followed by the lobby card, still, and insert card. The more grand the theatre, the more display cases and sizes available.  Most theatres displayed posters for the current film or films (when showing a double feature) out front to capture the eyes that walked by or rode by in bus or car. Lobby cards and stills were displayed out front and were important because they showed scenes from the film attempting to increase interest. If the theatre had a lobby, posters for coming films would be displayed there – once a customer had bought a ticket to the current show, next to selling popcorn, the operator wanted to bring the viewer back for the next film.

Major metropolitan areas were home to great theatres that seated thousands. Everything was oversized in these movie palaces and so were the posters, with all variants being used. Even the 24 sheet was utilized on a outside wall visible from great distances.

As collectibles, one sheets are king. They were the primary poster and come in a size that can be displayed anywhere. Lobby cards and insert cards are also highly valued because of their size and ease of display. Lobby cards and inserts were printed on card stock, similar to today’s 100-pound paper, which made them somewhat indestructible. One sheet’s survive because of the shear number printed for release; a normal release would cover a thousand theatres.

Larger posters survive in limited quantities because they were so large and when used were usually pasted to the display. Three sheets were common in most theaters, displayed on a signboard, they survive, but at nearly seven feet in height are a challenge to display.

With the advent of the multiplex in the 1980’s, the double-sided one sheet became the dominant poster. Designed for display in light boxes that ran along the walls of the multiplex, the double-sided poster was backlit making the poster visible from a distance as patrons drove by.

Here is a breakdown on the traditional poster/display sizes in US, plus the most common sizes from the United Kingdom. Of note, the British have always favored the horizontal poster, both in movies and vintage posters. The British Quad Sheet makes a great horizontal poster perfectly suited to traditional living spaces.

United States

  • Stills – 8” x 10” – color or B&W, usually 8 in set, photo paper.
  • Lobby Cards – 11” x 14” usually in set of 8, with title card featuring artwork from poster, card stock. Lobby cards featured tinted photos from the film, even if the film was in black and white.
  • Insert – 14” x 36”, card stock, usually folded once or twice.
  • Window Card -14” x 22”, card stock.
  • One sheet – 27” x 41” paper, the most common movie poster, released with the film. Some films had multiple one sheets, identified as “A”, “B”, “C”, etc. The “A” sheet was the primary one, but in some cases, the “B” or “C” sheets are now more popular.  One sheets were folded for shipment, a folded one sheet was folded equally four times.
  • One sheet teaser – 27” x 41” paper, special one sheets designed to tease the audience in advance of the film release, usually featured main art work, but limited credits, not usually as valuable as the original release one sheet, folded.
  • One sheet award – 27” x 41”, paper, the release one sheet embellished with text related to winning awards, or critic reviews, not usually as valuable as the original release poster, folded.
  • Half-Sheet – 22” x 28”, paper, not common, folded.
  • Three sheet – 41” x 81” common, in two sections, folded.
  • 30” x 40” – usually heavy paper and rolled, not common
  • 40” x 60” – usually heavy paper and rolled, not common
  • Six sheet – 81” x  81” not common, in four sections, folded.
  • Twenty four sheet – 246” x 108” not common, billboard size, folded.

United Kingdom

  • Quad – 30” x 40”, paper, the most common poster, folded.
  •  Double crown – 20” x 30”, paper.