The auction house started auctioning film posters in September 2017, staging two online-only sales per year which are run out of its London office. With the next auction taking place on August 28, here ATG picks out a selection of highlights among the 164 lots.
1. Lumière brothers
Posters advertising the first-ever public screening of a film, which took place in Paris in 1895, are highly rare and have only surfaced on the market on a few occasions. Sotheby’s, though, will be offering one at the upcoming auction which it has described as the “ultimate collector's poster and a true museum piece”.
The 20-minute screening by the Lyon-based pioneers of cinema Louis and Auguste Lumière was held in the Salon Indien, the basement room of the Grand Cafe on Boulevard des Capucines in Paris which was normally a meeting place for gentlemen billiard players. Around 100 chairs were borrowed from the Grand Cafe and the film was projected onto a white canvas resembling a bed sheet with the cinematograph stationed at the back on a step ladder.
Although only 30 people were in the audience for that very first screening on December 28, 1895, the success of the new medium was immediate. For the subsequent showings on January 1-2, 1896, some 2000-2500 spectators paid one franc each to see Lumière's collection of moving images – mostly short films of around a minute long.
Two different poster designs were produced for advertising these first screenings which were printed and pasted on walls in Paris. The poster at Sotheby’s is an example of the design by Henri Brispot, showing a crowd of people waiting impatiently to enter the Salon Indien.
A rarity on the market which relates to a key moment in early cinema history, it is estimated £40,000-60,000.
2. Gone with the Wind
Original artworks for posters of the most famous Hollywood films of the 20th century are hard to find. However, the fact that separate designs were often made for the later re-releases of the films means a few more are available occasionally on the market.
Gone with the Wind originally came out in 1939 after the massive task of converting Margaret Mitchell's best-selling novel into a screenplay had been completed by several writers, including F Scott Fitzgerald.
For the re-release of the film in 1968, the artist Howard Terpning (b.1927) produced this gouache on paper as a preliminary artwork for a one-sheet poster.
At Sotheby’s, it is estimated at £6000-9000.
3. Miracle in Soho
Among the posters for British films at Sotheby’s is a 1957 design by Renato Fratini (1932-73) for Miracle in Soho. Directed by Julian Amyes, the film starred John Gregson, Belinda Lee and Cyril Cusack, with the plot based around the romance between a road-builder working on a small street in Soho and the daughter of Italian immigrants. The film had its premiere in nearby Leicester Square in July 1957.
The poster at Sotheby’s is estimated at £800-1200.
4. Top Hat poster
Another rarity at the Sotheby’s sale is a 1935 Swedish poster by John Mauritz 'Moje' Aslund for the film Top Hat.
Printed in three sheets, copies of this poster would have been pasted onto billboards and, as a result, only unused posters would have survived. This work at the auction is the only known example of this Art Deco style poster with the jaunty figures of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to have surfaced.
It is estimated at £18,000-24,000.
When Jaws hit the cinemas in 1975 and shattered box office records, it was said to have ‘invented’ the concept of the summer blockbuster. The film, based on Peter Benchley's 1974 novel of the same name, propelled its 29-year-old director Steven Spielberg to international fame.
A copy of a souvenir magazine poster that was only available during the initial release of the film in major cinemas by Roger Kastel is offered at the Sotheby’s auction.
The estimate is £600-900