One of the most interesting yet lesser-known motion picture collectible is the Exhibitor Book, Pressbook or Presskit. As exemplified by the Blade Runner Presskit above, containing 18 supplements (78 pp. in all, stapled together), 21 photos, which vary from 6 ¼ x 10” (16 x 26 cm.) to 7 ¾ x 10” (20 x 26 cm.), and the original printed studio envelope in which the presskit was mailed, its purpose was to help promote the film.
1930s movie posters proclaimed, week after week, what Hollywood had to offer to an eager world during the days of the great movie studios and the Great Depression. No better example of this is the above exquisite 1932 vintage original Belgian poster of Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express.
In the beginning, as the fledgling studios began to grow, and knowing that a portion of their potential audience was illiterate, they took their cue from vaudeville, fairs and the circus to create colorful artwork that depicted scenes from their movies in order to promote their films.
From the mid 1920s through the 1940’s, movie studios developed their own artwork styles for their posters, lobby cards and other marketing materials. They hired well-known artists and illustrators, such as Al Hirschfeld, John Held Jr., Hap Hadley, Ted Ireland, Louis Fancher, Clayton Knight and Armando Seguso, to create the illustrations and graphic designs.
The introduction of the color offset lithography printing technique in the 1920’s changed the artistic quality of posters, sharpening the image and, over time, shifting the emphasis from illustration to photography.
At the same time, Hollywood Portrait Photography evolved as a result of the work of six individuals that became the photographers of choice for “shooting the stars:” Albert Witzel, George Hurrell, Clarence Bull, Ruth Harriet Louise, Milton Greene and Cecil Beaton.