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Movie Poster Mysteries…Solved!

New Orleans After Dark Poster         I bought my
first movie still when I was 12 years old at a used bookstore in Hackensack,
New Jersey. It was a nice shot of Buster Keaton that cost 25 cents, which was
exactly what I could afford. Then I saw a classified ad in The 8mm Collector offering pressbooks. I didn’t know what they
were, so I asked the man who placed the ad and he patiently answered me. (This
was all accomplished by snail mail in those primitive days before the
Internet.) That got me interested in those oversized, advertising-packed
journals for theater owners. I only started acquiring posters and lobby cards
as an afterthought. My main source was a fantastic outfit in Canton, Oklahoma
called Movie Poster Service run by two brothers who’d been servicing regional
movie theaters for years. Stills cost 25 cents and one-sheet posters were $1.75
each. I bought odd and obscure items that happened to interest me. If I’d
stocked up on mainstream posters I’d be wealthy today; I was more interested in
stills. Oh, well…

I was lucky enough to find and marry a woman who not only
shared my love of movies but fell in love with posters. Alice encouraged me to
buy and sometimes trade for images we liked, and although prices had risen
considerably by this time they were still affordable. This was before the
coming of high-end auctions.

In the Sweet Pie and Pie

No one knew much about the origins of posters or stills, how
they were commissioned and identified, who designed or drew them, etc. The
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made great strides in this area
in recent years and savvy dealers have provided useful information, but there
are still many gaps in our collective knowledge.

Enter Ed and Susan Poole, longtime collectors who decided to
conduct serious research and share their findings with the world through their
website, LAMP (Learn About Movie Posters) and an ongoing series of invaluable research books. Their first effort, Collecting Movie Posters, was published
in 1997 by McFarland and has been followed by eighteen reference books
including Learn About International Movie
Posters, Movie Trailer Identification Codes,
and The Silent Studio Directory.

Columbia Movie Still Code

If you’ve ever examined vintage movie stills, you’ll
recognize the number and letter coding in the lower corner. These are often the
only clue as to the title of a film. If you want a decoder, you needn’t contact
Little Orphan Annie: LAMP has done the work for you. Their research encompasses
over 50,000 codes!  Click HERE. They have done the same for codes on movie
posters and other theater accessories. Access to these databases require a fee,
as they should, but LAMP also provides thousands of images for free on their
site.

The Pooles are also proud of Louisiana’s role in movie
history and have published books (beginning with Hollywood on the Bayou) and mounted exhibitions and lectures on the
subject, which is near and dear to them. Although Louisiana is now the #1 state
in the union for film and television production, there doesn’t seem to be
commensurate interest in education and preservation of the state’s historical
involvement with the entertainment world. Ed and Susan are determined to change
that by launching a research foundation. If anyone can pull that off, they are
surely the ones.

Ed and Susan Poole

Meanwhile, if you want to know anything about movie
memorabilia, or see what various dealers, auction houses, and restoration
experts are up to, sign up for LAMP’s free monthly e-mail blast.

Ed and Susan have been collecting for forty years and have
just celebrated the 20th anniversary of LAMP…but they show no signs
of slowing down. Their next big project is a directory of movie poster artists,
an especially ambitious undertaking. I can hardly wait for the finished
product.

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