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Friday, 19 March, 1999, 12:07 GMT
Selling the art of film
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
This 1919 poster for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari film may fetch up to 15,000
At the beginning of the 20th Century, when cinema was in its infancy, and advertising was also a relatively new phenomenon, a poster promoting a film was a pretty obscure sort of thing.

Frankenstein
This 1935 lobby card is worth a monster 2,000-3,000...
Something to be disposed of, a nuisance. Dozens were torn to shreds.

How could people have known then that posters like these would today be worth vast sums of money - up to thousands of pounds?

Nearly 100 years after the birth of the movies, the art of promotional material is big business.

A poster for the German film, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, from 1919, is expected to fetch between 10,000 and 15,000 when it is sold on Monday.

And a Charlie Chaplin fanatic is expected to hand over 3,000-5,000 for a French poster for his film A Day's Pleasure, from the same year.

Bambi
...But this poster is not quite so deer: 300-500
The auction, at Christie's of South Kensington, will also include a series for the St Trinian's films, a series from Ealing Studios movies and sets of posters featuring the greats of the silver screen from Clark Gable to Roger Moore.

Experts say it has only been in recent years that people have realised the huge value of this vintage advertising.

Technically, cinema bosses should return posters to the film agency, but that does not always happen, and neither side is particularly worried. It has always been a grey area.

James Bond
A French poster of From Russia With Love may fetch 400-600
Twenty years ago, when Richard Dacre worked at the Scala Cinema in London, he had an inkling that some may prove valuable, and squirreled away several dozen.

He possessed a kind of foresight which film distributors have now come to rely on.

Today he runs a shop specialising in original movie posters, and frequently supplies film publicists with adverts which their company destroyed years ago.

"Ealing posters are particularly popular because they are attractive. They were at the height of getting major design artists and were efficient at selling the film," says Mr Dacre.

ET
The buyer of this ET poster is likely to be over the moon
"Stuff from the 70s has seen a huge leap in price, I think because for a lot of well-off people, it reminds them of their childhood."

About 500 posters and more than 1,000 vintage stills will be up for auction on Monday. The buyers will include collectors fanatical about a particular star, director, or a general genre; people who collect artefacts of individual designers, as well as professional dealers.

Even the owners of theme bars and restaurants attend these sales to pick up suitable items of decor.

A poster for modern classic E.T. - originally withdrawn by a protective Stephen Spielberg - is estimated at 400-600.

Clark Gable
A Clark Gable fan will have to find 1,600-2,400 for this 1934 lot
Hollywood classics include Lawrence of Arabia, from 1962, valued at 3,000-5,000, while a lobby card for Breakfast at Tiffany's, from 1961, signed by Audrey Hepburn, is put at 400-600.

There is no objective measure of what constitutes a good poster.

But Mr Dacre says the secret lies in three elements combined: a popular film title, an attractive design and a poster which comes from the same country as the film itself.

According to Christie's film specialist Sarah Hodgson: "Every collector has a different reason - be it Cary Grant or Hitchcock. You or I might think a poster is incredibly ugly but to a film collector that doesn't matter."

See also:

19 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Titanic prices for old letters
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