What Are Lobby Cards?
The uniquely American Movie Lobby Card was one of the first means of marketing early motion pictures. Around 1913 lobby cards came into being as small nickelodeons, where the first movies were shown, began to grow into what eventually became movie palaces. In addition to the beautiful, colorful lithographic movie posters that advertised the name of the film, there came a need to present teaser images of the movie’s key scenes, the actors and eventually the stars that became essential in promoting each film.
The earliest lobby cards were often nothing more than black and white or duotone stills in a horizontal format, printed on card stock . By the 1920’s these initially simple photo sets evolved into a decorative art form, much like an antique Persian miniature. As color photographic printing did not exist, each color was added by hand, sometimes with a stencil and sometimes by a water colonist individually adding hues to each card. These lobby cards, of the silent era and early talkies, represent a high point in the pure aesthetics of lobby card design and are very much in demand.
Lobby Card Sets
As its name suggest, these vintage original lobby card sets were designed for display in a theatre’s lobby or foyer with the intention of drawing patrons into the theatre by presenting photographs of scenes from the actual movie. These sets were done in both an 11″ x 14″ (about 28 x 36 cm.) format and also a smaller 8″ x 10″ (about 20 x 26 cm.) version. Eventually, the larger 11″ x 14″ size became standard. A lobby card set typically consisted of from eight to twelve cards. There was one Title Card, designed to represent the entire film, which usually included images of the the stars, a brief description of the film and a list of credits, and from seven to eleven Scene Cards, each depicting an important moment in the film.
Building A Vintage Lobby Card Collection
There are as many reasons to collect lobby cards as there are collectors. Since lobby cards are small, they are inexpensive to frame and by comparison to vintage original posters and photographs, much less expensive to collect. A display of framed lobby cards can be both beautiful and impressive. Here are some of the basics:
- THE BEAUTY — Collections can be built of lobby cards that are gorgeous. This would most often be cards dating from the 1920’s and 1930’s. These can encompass very obscure movies, with no familiar stars but with a phenomenal image.
- THE SUBJECT — Many people enjoy collecting lobby cards on a specific subject. A few examples the area of interest could be: 1950’s science-fiction, African American film, LGBTQ film, horror, westerns, or pre-Code movies. This specifically refers to American films made between 1929 and 1934, after which a rigid morality was imposed by a new Motion Picture Production Code. During that five-year period, lobby cards and posters’ artwork was often very bold and sexually suggestive. And when it comes to specialized collecting, pinpointed subjects can include: hockey, boxing, Ireland, cigarette smoking, robots, aviation, circus, just to mention a few.
- THE ACTOR — The actor is the star of the movie and many collectors focus excursively on that actor, such as Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen, Dorothy Dandridge, John Wayne and Bela Lugosi, which, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg.
- THE STUDIO — There are also collectors of the films of one particular studio such as MGM, Paramount, Fox, and, of course, Universal (a particularly popular studio with horror collectors because they produced so many of the historical classics in that genre).
Please check out our video Collecting Vintage Movie Lobby Cards.
WalterFilm’s Vintage Movie Lobby Cards
As one of the world’s premier resource for anyone interested in collecting vintage original lobby cards, we have an exceptional inventory of individual Title Cards and Card Sets that include a range of film titles across decades of production. Here is a sampling of a variety of our lobby cards and to view our entire collection please click: