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World's First Movie Poster Set to be a Record Breaker

The Lumière brothers launched what became known as the 'movie industry' from a basement at the Grand Cafe in Paris on 28 December 1895. It wasn't an auspicious start as just 30 of the 100 seats set for the occasion were occupied, and nearly all of the invited members of the press failed to turn up.

Lumière poster by Marcellin Auzolle
Credit: Heritage Auctions

That first ever session lasted 15 minutes and contained 13 of the Lumière's short films, each lasting less than a minute - with the brothers' famous cinématographe projector perched on a step ladder at the center of the basement auditorium. However, within a year word had spread and the makeshift cinema had never-ending queues and, within a few months, Lumière cinemas had opened in most major European cities.

Archives reveal that on the first two days of January 1896, more than 2,000 spectators paid 1 franc each to see the Lumière's show in Paris and the success of the initial foray into showing moving pictures resulted in two posters being commissioned to begin promoting the screenings across the French capital.

One of these, a large landscape format 47 x 62.25-inch (120 x 158-cm) by Marcellin Auzolle, which features a jovial audience watching the screening of one of the short films, a 49-second clip that turned out to be the first comedy film, L'Arroseur Arrose (The Sprinkler Sprinkled).

A copy of the other poster, by Henri Brispot, the only poster of the pair to sell in the last two decades, fetched over $200,000. However, the poster by Marcellin Auzolle is the rarer of the two, and when it comes up for auction next month is predicted to smash this record by a considerable margin. After all, it marks the very beginning of motion pictures and is the first poster to promote a specific movie.


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