What Are Movie Lobby Cards? & A Ben Hur Original Lobby Card Stencil
Movie lobby cards are a uniquely American creation. They are a hybrid of movie posters and, usually, movie star photos. Back in the early 1910’s, the small nickelodeons, where films were first shown, started morphing into larger, more permanent, and more elegant venues. As a result of this growth, more advertising was needed to promote the movies these new movie palaces were offering. So, in addition to the beautiful, colorful lithographic movie posters, there came a need for photographic images.
Sometime around 1913, lobby card sets started to be produced, and they were, basically, photographs printed on a heavy paper resembling cardboard. For several years, lobby 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 the standard size for American lobby cards. Sets usually contained 8 cards but sets of as few as four and as many as 15 have been produced.
By the 1920’s, these initially simple photo sets evolved into a very advanced, decorative art form. (One early author on the subject described them as akin to antique Persian miniatures.) As the technology to print them in color did not yet exist, the coloring was done by hand, sometimes with a stencil and sometimes by a water colonist individually adding hues to each card. The silent lobby cards, of the 1920’s, and the cards of the early talking film era, represent a high point in the pure aesthetics of lobby cards as an art form in their own right.
Many beautiful collections can be built out of lobby cards that are absolutely gorgeous in design. 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. Many people enjoy the art of collecting lobby cards based on various subjects. A few examples are American Films, African American film, westerns, 1950’s science-fiction, LGBTQ film, horror, and movies that are pre-code. 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.
ONE-OF-A-KIND ENGRAVED PLATE FOR "BEN HUR" LOBBY CARD, 1925
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ is a 1925 American silent epic adventure-drama film directed by Fred Niblo and written by June Mathis based on the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by General Lew Wallace. Starring Ramon Novarro as the title character, the film is the first feature-length adaption of the novel and second overall, following the 1907 short.
In 1997, Ben-Hur was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
This remarkable piece of film history was used to produce the lobby card advertisements for the silent film epic produced by MGM studios in 1925. The film, starring Ramon Novarro and May McAvoy was, at the time, the most expensive film ever produced with the final cost surpassing $4,000,000 and won 11 Oscars.
APPRAISAL VALUE: $100,000.00
OUR PRICE: $41,000.00
The above item comes with a FREE Certified Insurance Appraisal valued at $100,000.00
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