Front of House or Lobby Promotional Material in the 1960s.

Introduction

There is quite some confusion and misinformation on-line about the promotional material that could be used in the lobby -as it was called in the US – or Front-of-House as it was known in the UK. Hopefully this will provide some enlightenment and guidance for those with a general interest or those who want to be more serious collectors.

Big or small, every film was brought to the market with a standard set of promotional materials, put together by the distributor and which could be used by the exhibitor to promote the film in their local area. The ‘bigger’ the film, the greater the range of material that was provided. With the Bond franchise, Dr No started small but very quickly an ever increasing range of publicity material was made available to exhibitors – and a whole lot more as the films became wildly popular, product tie-ins became common place, and the launch of a new Bond movie became an event of sometimes hysterical significance.

As part of the promotional package, specific material was made available that could be used in the lobby area (for simplicity’s sake I’ll use the US term going forward) to promote the films and as a catalyst to build audience expectations and excitement. Over time, much of this has become sought after by collectors. In this essay, after giving an overview of this material (called Accessories by the trade), I will focus on the stills or lobby cards that hold particular interest.

A page from the UK campaign booklet showing some of the material available for promoting From Russia With Love.

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the US and UK markets use different terms and then sometimes the same but always somewhat inconsistently and yet collectors have tended to lump items under a single name. Officially the following was made available to be used in the lobby.

The Material

Posters: these I have covered in more detail elsewhere, so here I am giving just an overview. They came in a variety of sizes with the most well-known being the Quad Crown landscape format in the UK but other sizes included a 48-sheet and 16-sheet for use on outdoor advertising hoardings, and double crown for the lobby area.

In the US posters were generally sized as 1-, 3- 6- and 26-sheet and there were also vertical ‘door panels.’

The variety of sizes meant that some could be used immediately outside the movie theatre; others on advertising hoardings further away, or some within the lobby of the theatre itself, and indeed in all sorts of nooks and grannies throughout the cinema’s often flamboyantly designed interior.

Lobby Cards: They often featured the same information and the same design as the principal movie poster – or a variation thereof, printed on light card, and usually displayed as a stand-alone item. However they were also called half-sheets in the US and could be printed on paper as well as light card stock.

Both in the UK and US they were termed a Lobby Card, and were sized 22 x 28 inches, a standard in both markets.

In the US there was also a Window Card (14 x 22) that was printed on a heavy card stock, and a narrow portrait Insert Card (14 x 36) also printed on heavy stock.

Come the 1970s the Lobby Card had fallen out of favour in the UK, although they were still used in the US until the early 1980s after which all the smaller formats were phased out with the arrival of the multiplex.

Stills: this is where the complication lies as they were called ‘stills’ in the UK but ‘lobby cards’ in the US Whatever they were called they were issued as packs of eight (the industry standard) for the Bond films in both markets. (If only four or six are seen for sale this is an incomplete even if they are labelled as a set.) In the UK they were sized 10 x 8 inches, while in the US they were a little larger at 11 x 14 inches and hence it is important to know what market they originate from.

With some films, several different sets were issued with a different selection of scenes. In the early Bond films they came in hand-tinted colour and a technique that continued to be used for the Bond films across the 1960s – although by You Only Live Twice, proper coloured prints were also being used. Sometimes they were displayed individually, more often as a collection within a frame and, of course, they had to be viewed up close. The US examples almost always had a side bar which included some element from the main poster design. The UK versions had a bottom bar naming key actors and personnel.

There are variations: there are some sets which are black and white with a single colour tint added. Sometimes there are black and white versions with the film credits added as a sticker. These need to be treated with caution as it appears that they were not official cards issued by the distributors (but see below).

While I haven’t dived into the history, stills or lobby cards first appeared around 1910, first in black and white, then in colour and reached their peak in the 1960s. In the early decades the set of lobby cards would be made of seven scenes and one title card, which was a miniature version of the movie poster. The use of title cards appears not to be the practice with the Bond movies.

From the 1970s onwards the use of lobby cards began to decline not least because at the newly emerging multiplexes there was just not enough room to display cards for all the films that were being shown – particularly as they took up valuable real estate that could be used to sell sweets, popcorn, and other high margin items.

Photographic enlargements (sometimes termed blow-ups): these were black and white scenes from the film or portraits of the stars, with a variety of uses: they could be used in the lobby; within promotional displays with, for example, local retailers; and they could also be sent to the local newspaper. When On Her Majesty’s Secret Service arrived, the number of scenes that could be chosen were ten and the prints could be ordered in six different sizes that ranged from 10 x 8 inches to a whopping 80 x 40 inches. They came with no printed information on the front of the photo. With some films they were made available as a thematic set such as a wedding theme. They were also made available as promotional tie ups with any of the brands featured. In the US they were issued in colour versions as well but not in the UK during the 1960s.


Examples

Dr No: US Lobby Card or half sheet. 22 x 28 inches.
Dr No: This is a set of tinted lobby cards from the US, famous for the colour of the tinting sometimes not matching the actual film tints. These were prepared, printed and distributed by the National Screen Service Corp. Size: 11 x 14.
Dr No: UK Front-of-House stills. Notice the different colours used in the hand-tinting such as with Bond’s polo shirt and his tie. Size: 10 x 8.
From Russia With Love. A full set of hand-tinted UK stills.
From Russia With Love. US lobby cards with the single tint. They appear to be genuine but this would be incomplete as it only numbers five.
From Russia With Love. These have been included for interest as they do not fit any UK or US pattern. (Possibly from another English-speaking market.)
Thunderball. US. An incomplete set of hand-tinted lobby cards. Note the warning sticker.
Thunderball. UK stills. A full set of hand-tinted stills with different scenes from the US bar one.
US incomplete set of lobby cards. A collection of of 4 from a set of 8. Note that these are printed from colour photographs.
You Only Live Twice. Whereas in the UK the stills were hand-tinted.
You Only Live Twice. A full set of UK stills using colour photographs and a block inset. It is thought likely that this set was issued when the film was later re-released.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. A double page from the UK campaign booklet with details of some of the material available to exhibitors.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. A full set of hand-tinted UK stills with a new layout featuring an inset block. This was the first time this layout was used in the original release stills.

This is no collectors’ site but a word of warning that fakes and reprints abound so always make sure that any purchase is authenticated before shelling out big money.


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A very good primer on the history of lobby cards. https://blogs.loc.gov/now-see-hear/2018/02/inside-the-archival-box-lobby-cards/