Seen by most just briefly in the movie theater lobby, movie posters are actually a very popular collectible. Passionate collectors search high and low for vintage movie posters to proudly display – or sometimes keep hidden away safely in storage — taking care not to damage these sometimes valuable pieces. In fact, in October 2018, a rare original poster from the 1932 classic The Mummy was expected to fetch $1 million at auction.
If you’re a new poster collector or would simply like to improve your skills to protect and display your collection, follow our guide for move posters. (For additional tips, check out our guide on How to Frame a Poster)
Examine the Movie Poster
Before you begin, examine the poster carefully, especially if it is a vintage print. Some vintage movie posters – those printed before the mid 1980s – feature a National Screen Service (NSS) number, which represented the year and the order in which the movie was released by the studio. If your poster features this mark, you may have a valuable item on your hands. Be wary, however, as some unscrupulous dealers fake these numbers in order to pass off less valuable posters as the real deal.
If the poster is folded, do not fold in the opposite direction to keep it flat as this will further weaken the paper. If it is a potentially valuable poster in less-than-mint condition, you may need to take it to a restoration professional. They can apply a linen backing to reinforce and support the poster. Linen backings are commonly found on vintage movie posters and, as the method used is reversible, do not devalue the poster.
Linen backings on movie posters can be trimmed – it was actually once common to trim the backing right up until the edge of the poster – but it’s now considered a better practice to leave a border. This allows for safer handling and prevents the poster itself from touching the frame or other items, especially during shipping. Make sure you do not pull on the linen backing; it is not canvas and is not meant to be stretched.
Choose the Framing Materials: Movie Posters
Just as with other prints, the materials you use to frame a movie poster will make a difference in preventing damage and extending its life.
Backing board: Regular foam board can be used with decorative movie posters as it is sturdy and lightweight. For vintage or valuable posters, use an acid-free foam board or, according to research done by framing industry expert Rob Markoff, fluted polypropylene. Some poster collectors framing very valuable posters use this material due to its rigidity and water repellency.
Much like any other valuable artwork, movie posters should not be dry mounted unless it is a replaceable poster you do not mind irreversibly damaging. If you must mount the movie poster, hinging at the top of the backing board using a reversible mounting method is preferred.
Mat board: While it is not commonly used in framing movie posters, adding a mat board helps keep the poster away from the frame and hold the piece in place. If you’d rather not use mat board but are framing very large posters, use picture frame spacers, which will keep the poster from touching the frame.
One other area of concern may be the size. Many movie poster sizes are large, such as 27x40 or 27x41, and glass is heavy and breakable if not handled properly. If you plan to ship or frequently move your poster after it has been framed, acrylic may be the wiser choice.
Frame: Metal or wood frames are both suitable for poster frame options, but if you are particularly concerned about the poster coming into contact with wood, choose a metal frame. Most movie posters are traditionally framed in thinner profiles such as Nielsen profile 117, but the frame’s aesthetics is entirely up to you.
Movie poster collectors can be passionate about their prized possessions — and that kind of passion deserves the right frame. Instead of displaying your posters in cheap, off-the-shelf frames, choose a poster frame that’s made to display your collection with pride.