American Gothic

The exhibit covers the years 1919 – 2009 and is divided into categories and clusters of items, the various walls labeled for specific themes: “Universal” Horrors, Masters of Terror Horror Meisters, Hammer Horror, Horror Comedy, Teenage Monsters, and Modern Horror. Some walls are further labeled with famous names associated with the horror film genre: Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Val Lewton, Roger Corman, and William Castle. A note about this exhibition: all the posters and lobby cards on display are real, originally produced by movie studios in conjunction with the exhibition of their movies in theaters around the world. In addition to the U.S., there are posters on display from Mexico, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, Argentina, Czech Rep. and Japan. After the public exhibition of a film theater owners were expected immediately to return the display items so that they could be sent out again for another play date, and so on and on until the movie paper wore out. Fortunately, many theaters failed to do so, and theaterposter exchanges continued operating for decades until they eventually went out of business, sometimes selling off the contents of their warehouses–tons of movie paper. Those very lucky few collecting in the early 1960s were able to buy prime examples of movie poster art for next to nothing by today’s standards. I got into poster collecting rather late, at the beginning of the 1990’s, but was still able to amass, even with limited resources, a very sizable collection. I wouldn’t even attempt to accumulate the breadth and depth of the collection I have today. The material is no longer out there and the prices are astronomical. Even starting when I did, much of the early Universal horror film posters were already well beyond my monetary reach. That’s one reason I focused a large part of my collecting on smaller–and less expensive– lobby cards, 11×14” mini-posters and scenes from the films usually issued in sets of eight. Further, almost all of the 30’s classics (the first Golden Age of the horror film) were rereleased in later years, sometimes several times, and this material was still obtainable when I first started. I’ll end this overview by reiterating, these poster are real. They did not come from gift or souvenir shops. Each one is an authentic piece of movie history that was used to promote a movie in a theater. And what price can one put on that?

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