The world's first movie poster set to smash auction records
The movie industry got off to an inauspicious start on 28 December 1895 at the Grand Cafe in Paris. Just 30 of the 100 seats set for the occasion were occupied, and the Lumière brothers' famous cinématographe projector sat on a step ladder at the center.
The session lasted 15 minutes and contained 13 of the Lumière's short films, each lasting less than a minute. Like most new mediums, the Lumières struggled to imagine exactly how the future of the new technology might play out. At exactly the same time, Guglielmo Marconi was experimenting with transmitting signals by radio waves over distances of several kilometers, believing he had created a new technology for ship-to-shore communications.
Though nearly all of the invited members of the press failed to show at that first post-Christmas screening, before New Year 1896 the makeshift cinema had never-ending queues and demand has continued to exceed supply for the subsequent century and a quarter.
History records that on the first two days of January 1896, more than 2,000 spectators paid 1 franc each to see the Lumière's show and the success of the initial foray into showing moving pictures resulted in two posters being commissioned to begin promoting the screenings across Paris.
Two styles were created, being a portrait format 41.5 x 29.75 inches (105.4 x 75.5 cm) by Henri Brispot (1846-1928), which shows a throng of people waiting to enter the Salon Indien, and a large landscape format 47 X 62.25-inch (120 x 158-cm) by Marcellin Auzolle (1862-1942), which features a jovial audience watching the screening of one of the short films – a 49-second clip that turned out to be the first comedy film, L'Arroseur Arrose (The Sprinkler Sprinkled).
Within a few months, Lumière cinemas had opened in all most major European cities, with private screenings for many heads of state, kings, queens and even the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia.
No doubt both these posters have been to auction before, and no doubt there are copies in private collections still to make their presence known, but only a few have been to auction since the turn of the millennia, and the poster going to auction with Heritage Auctions in October 2023 is the rarer of the two.
Heritage's official estimate for the poster is US$50,000 to $100,000, but the only poster of the pair to sell in the last two decades fetched over $200,000, and while the movie industry is evolving and going online, it certainly isn't becoming any less important or relevant. Just prior to the pandemic, the global box office went within a whisker of $12 billion and this year should top $9 million in its inevitable recovery.
Regardless of where a movie is shown, be it the silver screen or a smartphone, this poster marks the very beginning of motion pictures, it is the first poster to promote a specific movie, and hence it will be even more important 500 years from now.
There are not too many investments where you can guarantee that far-reaching statement.
Source: Heritage Auctions