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The 1896 poster promoting the first film screening in Paris – £160,000 at Sotheby’s.

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Consigned from a private French collection where it was housed for over 40 years, the Cinématographe Lumière poster was described by the auction house as the “ultimate collector’s poster and a true museum piece”.

It was designed by the artist Henri Brispot (1846-1928) for the 20-minute screening by the Lyon-based pioneers of cinema Louis and Auguste Lumière, held in the Salon Indien, the basement room of the Grand Cafe.

The venue was normally a meeting place for gentlemen billiard players. Around 100 chairs were borrowed from the café upstairs and the film was projected onto a white canvas resembling a bed sheet. The picture was projected from the Lumières’ cinematograph stationed at the back of the room 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.

Double promotion

Two different poster designs were produced to promote these screenings, which were pasted on walls in Paris. The poster at Sotheby’s displays Henri Brispot’s imagery of a crowd of people waiting impatiently to enter the Salon Indien. The other poster, The waterer watered, was designed by Marcellin Auzolle (1862-1942) and is also a huge rarity.

The Brispot poster easily surpassed its £40,000-60,000 estimate, with the final bid of £160,000 from an anonymous buyer made before the auction closed on September 5. No buyer’s premium was charged. The price was the highest for a film poster sold by Sotheby’s, beating the previous high of £42,000 set in September 2017 for a poster for King Kong.

Specialist Bruce Marchant, who set up The Reel Poster Gallery in 1991, acted as a consultant for the sale. He previously held online poster auctions at the 25 Blythe Road auctions collective in 2015-16.