A Reel Rarity: The World's First Movie Poster Premieres In Heritage's Event Packed With Cinema Marvels

Lumiere Brothers'1895 Beauty Joins Spectacular Finds In Sept. 30 Sale

September 15, 2023

Often the most wanted thing in the collecting world is the first of its kind, such as the first edition of Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," Mickey Mantle's rookie card, a leather log book from the first moon landing, Issue #1 of the "Superman" comic book. Ever-popular as collectibles, vintage original movie posters have been a bit cursed with the problem that their firsts are so elusive. The first real public narrative movie screening took place in Paris in 1895; it featured the Lumiere brothers' comedy short "L'Arroseur Arrose (The Waterer Watered)." True to this golden age of Belle Epoque illustration and advertising art, the event was promoted by a massive, gorgeous poster that featured an enthusiastic audience enjoying this particular movie and this startling new kind of entertainment. The prolific ad artist Marcellin Auzolle was its creator. As noted by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA): "Auzolle's poster depicts an audience watching the comedy 'L'Arroseur Arrose' and evokes the lively energy associated with the first public screening of Lumiere films on Dec. 28, 1895, at the Grand Cafe in Paris. The program featured ten short films, projected at a scale of around 6.5-by-9 feet. The audience appears just as animated as the filmed performers, gesturing, laughing, and enjoying the collective experience." In a first of firsts, on Saturday, Sept. 30, Heritage Auctions will be the first auction house to offer this first movie poster to the public, as it leads a sweeping Movie Posters Signature Auction packed with other remarkable pieces of cinema history. There were actually two posters designed for the Lumiere event: The other design, by Henri Brispot, features a crowd of people waiting to enter the screening, and that poster sold at Sotheby's in 2018 for six figures. That one has its charms, but for his design the canny Auzolle instead chose to depict the thrill of the movie-watching experience, men and women, boys and girls (and a happy theater attendant) laughing heartily at a screen flickering with the image of a wayward kid playing a simple prank on a gardener (who happened to be played by the Lumieres' actual gardener Francois Clerc). Auguste and Louis Lumiere were, of course, cinema pioneers: This was the first time film was used to portray a fictional story, as well as the first comedy--the 49-second short is model slapstick. This original Auzolle poster, 128 years old and more than 5 feet wide, is in remarkable condition. Its colors are rich, autumnal and gemlike, its lines are clean, its smartly-dressed audience figures are alive with raucous appreciation for what's unfolding in front of them in contrasting black and white. This is, in other words, the first movie poster to show the film it's promoting. It comes to Heritage via Dominique Besson of Paris. "This poster is one of the first I bought over 40 years ago and is therefore from my personal collection," said Besson. "It was folded in the archives of a person whose grandfather had worked with the Lumiere brothers. As you could see, it had remained folded since the origin, nearly 130 years." Prior to this moment in motion-picture history, any promotional material for an event to show off the new film technology depicted the technology rather than any individual film, or ads for the non-narrative titles were often simply text. Our very definition of what makes a movie a real movie, and a real poster a real movie poster, is here in this remarkably preserved Lumiere-Auzolle moment, this uniquely beautiful artifact of the modern movie-going experience. "We are privileged to handle such an important piece of cultural history," states Zach Pogemiller, Heritage's associate director of Movie Posters. "This poster represents the birth of an entirely new genre of public art, one that continues to captivate and inspire the public worldwide. The Cinematographe Lumiere French grande marks both the birth of the movie industry and poster collecting." This first movie poster is merely one exceptional offering in a Heritage event teeming with rarities. So much of the material from cinema's earliest days are lost to time, so when beautiful examples of primary industry art surface, collectors pay attention. Such is the case with the lobby card from Fritz Lang's 1927 masterpiece "Metropolis." It is the only known example of this card. The scene image, depicting Maria's robot double leading a crowd of underworld workers in revolt, is original and unmarred. The first U.S. release material on this title is so rare that a complete lobby card set for "Metropolis" has yet to surface in the collecting community. Promotional materials in the early horror and science fiction genres continue to dominate the collector market. An ultra-rare jumbo lobby card for 1931's "Dracula," directed by Todd Browning and starring Bela Lugosi, has been offered only once before in a long-ago auction, and it casts a spell over audiences with its depiction of darkness and desire. From another Lugosi classic, the "Son of Frankenstein" half sheet marks only the second time Heritage has offered this style from Lugosi's last monster appearance in 1939, and the truly remarkable complete press book for "The Bride of Frankenstein" is a heart-stopping find. The cover glows with images of Boris Karloff, Valerie Hobson and Elsa Lanchester; the back cover is filled with examples of the near-vanished large format posters that were available upon release. The internal pages cover everything from advance and current publicity articles to the full range of lobby displays and additional posters that include the impressive six-sheet format. A genre collector's Holy Grail. In this event Heritage also offers a bounty of vintage creations from the world of James Bond releases, including from 007's debut in "Dr. No" via a striking British quad with artwork by Mitchell Hooks and David Chasman, replete with the very special agent and all his ladies, long considered superior to its American counterpart. An acetate lightbox one sheet poster for "Thunderball" marks Sean Connery's fourth turn as Bond and was meant to be displayed with a backlight source. It beautifully illuminates Frank McCarthy and Robert McGinnis' iconic artwork depicting 007 in his adventures fighting S.P.E.C.T.R.E. And continuing the lobby-card love in this auction are an ultra-rare, unrestored lobby card for 1933's "The Invisible Man," complete lobby card sets for 1938's "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (in beautiful condition with a linen finish), and a mint set for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" illustrated by the great Disney favorite Gustaf Tenggren. It is in time-capsule condition. For more information, visit www.HA.com/7329.


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