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Sotheby’s is Selling the World’s First Movie Poster, Which Promoted a Premiere Only 30 People Attended

Sotheby’s is Selling the World’s First Movie Poster, Which Promoted a Premiere Only 30 People Attended

Want a truly unique piece of movie history? Better bust out the check book and sell some stock. That’s because Sotheby’s in London is auctioning off what is thought to be the first ever movie poster promoting a film screening.

All told, Sotheby’s is offering 164 rare film posters, including one that can lay claim to be the world’s oldest. What’s even more fascinating is that the poster advertises the world-changing cinematography and filmmaking of the Lumière brothers—a name that is essential to the early history of cinema.

The poster shows a crowd of patrons going in to the first-ever public screening of a film, on December 28, 1895. And to those who may be shocked at the date—yes, cinema goes all the way back to the 19th century!

At the time, the actual screening attracted fewer than 30 people to a room where 100 chairs had been laid out. Newspapers had been invited but chose not to attend. The historically significant 20-minute screening was held in the Salon Indien, in the basement of the Grand Café on the Boulevard des Capucines. There, a white canvas was hung at one end of the room and a selection of Lumière short films was screened. Scenes included workers leaving the Lumière factory, an infant “fishing” for goldfish in a glass bowl, and a man doing a forward roll over a blanket held by four friends.

Paris’s newspapers soon caught on to the spectacle, featuring it within a couple of days. Then, on January 1st and 2nd, more than 2,000 people paid one franc apiece to see the moving images. Within a few months, Lumière cinemas had opened in various major international cities.

The poster is expected to fetch between £40,000-60,000, though given the historical significance of the item (and the deep pockets of those who’ve made it in the movie business), the sky is really the limit.

World's First Movie Poster Advertising for a Lumiere Brothers Screening

World's First Movie Poster Advertising for a Lumiere Brothers Screening

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