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!
How did you first start collecting film memorabilia and what triggered this obsession?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
What are some of the highlights of your time collecting?
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.
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.
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!