Everything but the kitsch-en sink: Poster collector Wil Wright

WELCOME TO PART TWO OF A NEW SERIES ABOUT VINTAGE COLLECTORS:

In the second installment of Everything But the Kitsch-en Sink, Christchurch Film Poster Gallery proprietor Wil Wright shares his penchant for vintage movie posters and memorabilia with Natasha Francois.

The Film Poster Gallery is New Zealand’s premier dealer of original theatre-used movie advertising material, including posters (from small daybills to extra-large ‘3 or 6 Sheets’), lobby cards, press stills, programs and ephemera. 

A life-long film buff,  the 41-year-old UK native says he’s always been mesmerized by the big screen and its ability to catapult viewers into another time, another place, another world.

Read on to find out more about his personal poster collection!

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How did you first start collecting film memorabilia and what triggered this obsession?

From a very young age I recall watching British-made post-war classics with my father, usually these would star great actors such as John Mills, Jack Hawkins, and Richard Attenborough.

Although they were usually made 25 years or so before I was born, I absolutely loved them. Not only for the extraordinary acting abilities of their star-studded casts, but also for the glimpse of true wartime/post wartime life that no film produced in recent times could ever hope to pull off.

As a result, I became mesmerised by the big screen and the way it could transport the viewer into another time, another place – and in some cases another world.

I began to seek out physical connections to films (via original advertising material) that had in some way influenced or in some way played a part in my life, whether from those old black and whites, the multitude of westerns and war films that my father I would become immersed in, or films of my own choosing from my youth, namely the original Star Wars trilogy, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, The Goonies, or Jaws. Or even the Schwarzenegger and Stallone hits, such as the Terminator to Predator or Rocky to Rambo.

 

 

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How would you describe your particular aesthetic?

Pretty loose, my interests are extremely varied and ultimately if I like it, I buy it! Originally I set about collecting wartime film posters, this then morphed into the 60s and 70s with Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry or Steve McQueen’s ultra stylish Bullitt.

My focus then shifted to Star Wars, however by the mid 80s film poster collecting had taken off to such a degree in the States, and shortly after UK, that a vast array of forgeries (commonly referred to as ‘Bootlegs’) started to appear on the market and all the major titles from Jaws, Indiana Jones, Blade Runner and Star Wars were the titles that these forgers/criminals would target the most. With that in mind I switched to collecting titles, which until that point, were unaffected due to their low value. Unfortunately many of these have now fallen prey to this as interest in the 1980s is on the rise.

indianna

star trek

How long have you been collecting vintage film memorabilia?

From the late 80s I began begging my local cinema for posters; however being so young I tended to pin or tape them to my bedroom wall and discard them once a new film took my interest. I sadly recall throwing away a multitude of 80s titles that would now set me back a fair few dollars to replace in today’s collector market! I started to ‘collect and archive’ posters from the mid 90s, when I saw them more as pieces of art than disposable bedroom decorations.

 

 

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What are some of your favourite pieces in your collection?

Most probably my 1977 Star Wars UK post Oscars Quad poster, not only because it’s Star Wars (I have a few of those) but its design is by one of my favorite poster artists of all time, Tom Chantrell. Tom painted film posters from just before the Second World War through to the mid 80s and is responsible for some 800+ designs. His work covered not only cult Sci-Fi such as Star Wars, but also iconic titles like Bullitt, Cleopatra, One Million Years BC and even through to more low-brow risqué titles such as Come Play With Me and What’s Up Superdoc!

I have a few of his other designs, but the Star Wars Han, Luke and Leia shot is by far my favourite.

star wars

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Which eras do you gravitate most to when collecting?

Either films from my youth or something that’s visually appealing. There has to be some sort of connection/personal history with the subject matter of what I intend to display as if there isn’t then it’s hardly worth the purchase price, let alone the framing costs. Also I like to think that those pieces I display around my house not only stir up memories for myself or my partner, but also for our guests, who can always find something on display to relate to. For example the infamous Roger Kastel Jaws design regularly spurs guests to confess how the thought of this image kept them out of the sea for many years!

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What are some of the highlights of your time collecting?

Finding designs that I’ve either been hunting for, or in the case of this 1937 Mysterious Pilot Australian playbill, finding things that I never knew existed. Granted it’s in pretty poor condition and the lower section (some nine inches) is completely missing, but I still think this 30s artwork is absolutely stunning and although not worth a great deal, I still intend to have it linen-backed and conserve what still remains to avoid it being lost forever.
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How big is the market for this sort of thing in New Zealand?
In comparison to the United States or UK the market here is more for the casual collector, hence why the vast majority of my orders come from overseas. However, I genuinely feel that things are starting to pick up and more and more people see original film posters as key elements of modern pop culture.
People are now considering these for serious home decoration where as before they may only have seen them as something destined for a teenager’s bedroom wall.
With the Christchurch rebuild underway, there are scores of stylish residential and commercial properties popping up whose owners are seeking something beyond the normal array of art prints or canvases to decorate them.
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the mind benders
Do you source your stock locally or abroad?
I brought a lot of posters with me when I moved here from the UK, however I’ve been fortunate in finding some rather nice material locally. Although New Zealand did produce a small quantity of its own advertising material (of varied quality), the vast majority used over here was either from Australia, the US our even the UK, so titles that are deemed hard to find or rare elsewhere suddenly turn up out of the blue during my hunts around the country.
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I heard you recently picked up a large collection of predominantly 50s and 60s thrillers and comedy but also Blaxploitation and Sexploitation posters too can you tell us about that?
Sadly some of my stock will come from deceased estates and more often than not relatives of the deceased are faced with the daunting task of sorting through boxfuls of posters that they know nothing about and quite frankly want to pass over to someone such as myself as soon as possible.
Usually a good 90% of any large collection or ‘hoard’ will be monetarily worthless, due to either the general condition or the titles within being from non mainstream genres, and actually cost more to transport, sort through and eventually store than you would ever recoup from selling them.
So with this being the case you have to hope that the remaining 10% contains enough quality to warrant the overall purchase.
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Can you show us some of this haul?
Some of the nicer, Blaxploitation, Sexploitation, Crime, Drama, Oscar winners, Music/Concert, Sci-Fi, Musical and Thriller titles that were hiding within this collection.

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What are your favourite classic movies and do you have any particular special interest areas?

 I’m a huge fan of David Lean, particularly his ‘famous five’, which although he’d produced many other films beforehand, from the years 1957-1984 he would only direct five films and what visual masterpieces they were! These titles are: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), Ryan’s Daughter (1970) and A Passage to India (1984).

These five films were (and still are) held in such a high regard, that combined they would gross over $2 billion USD and would amass 43 Oscar nominations, of which 23 were won, including Best Picture awards for Bridge on the River Kwai and the absolutely stunning Lawrence of Arabia.16864133_1896247863990177_2969504991134095308_n

What are your favourite places to hunt treasure? 

Over the years I’ve found a few old pieces hidden away in old theatre storerooms or attics, however those finds are now few and far between, mainly with so many theatres sadly having to close down due to the rise of modern-day all-singing-and-dancing giants like the Hoyts or Reading chains. As a result I’ve no doubt scores of rare and stunning artworks have been simply thrown out during refits or demolitions.15390875_1874388052842825_424985104123822734_n

Any pieces you dream of finding?
I suppose every collector would say an original release Creature From The Black Lagoon, Casablanca or King Kong as these would cost tens of thousands to purchase (if you could find anyone willing to part with them!).

However, I’d also say anything from the 1920s-30s as the artwork on the vast majority of titles from these eras was out of this world and to me rivals any mainstream ‘gallery’ artwork produced of the same period.

Are you a film buff, and do you collect or covet vintage posters?  Which film(s) would you love to own the original poster for and why?

Let me know in the comments!

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3 thoughts on “Everything but the kitsch-en sink: Poster collector Wil Wright

  1. Great interview! Love that ‘The Boy Who Cried Werewolf’ poster (big fan of oversized monster artwork). I’d obviously love an original ‘The Mummy’ poster – because it’s considered one of the most collectable posters and because I ADORE the movie – but any classic RKO horror poster, simply because they are wonderful films with amazing posters, would be a treat (I have a reproduction ‘The Curse of the Cat People’ on my wall – what I would give for it to be an original!).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a collection of approx 100 movie posters featuring the original four actresses from the seventies tv series ‘Charlie’s Angels’ (Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd). Although they haven’t been in many movies, their global tv fame means posters promoting their movies (such as Logan’s Run, Millenium, Saturn 3, The Cannonball Run, Extremities, Deja Vu, Making Love and Extremities) have been created all around the world. Unfortunately I don’t have space to display them well.

    Like

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