September 23, 2005

Passionate Collector – International Movie Posters

Kyle Hall collects "The Long, Long Trailer" movie posters from all over the world.

When Kyle Hall was 10 years old, he saw the MGM movie, The Long, Long Trailer, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Now, 31 years later, Hall collects The Long, Long Trailer movie posters from around the world. "The posters are big, colorful and cheerful, and they're a major part of my décor," says Hall. "People flip when they see them, and they're fascinated by how the foreign posters are different from the American originals."

Hall began collecting movie posters in 1999, when he was living in New York. He had a new apartment with empty walls, so he visited a shop that sold original posters for films, foreign travel, and advertising. The store displayed its inventory in notebooks that held snapshots of all the posters by category, and one of those notebooks contained a large 47" x 63" French poster for The Long, Long Trailer. Hall thought it was colorful and beautiful, but he just admired the snapshot for a minute and kept looking; he had something different in mind for his apartment. After returning home empty-handed, Hall couldn't stop thinking about the poster for the next week-and-a-half. Finally, he asked the shop to hold it for him until he could return and view it. Once he saw the actual poster, Hall knew he had to have it. The salesmen in the poster shop, who apparently had business acumen, said, "Fan of that movie, huh? Why aren't you interested in the Italian poster, too?" And that's how it all began.

Hall's collection now includes the U.S. poster for The Long, Long Trailer in three different sizes, as well as posters for the movie from England, France, Italy, Belgium, Finland, Australia, Sweden and Argentina. "Because Lucy was popular worldwide, the movie was also a hit in all the foreign markets, and most of those created their own poster designs," says Hall. "People flip when they see the posters, and they're fascinated by how the foreign posters differ from the American originals."

Souvenir programs, still photos, on-set candids, magazine articles, advertising, and a script from The Long, Long Trailer are other highlights of Hall's collection. He estimates that 95 percent of his collection has been purchased through eBay. "I discovered eBay in 1998, and I have been on the site almost every day since," says Hall. "A collection like mine would have been almost impossible to build without eBay, because most of my foreign posters have come from foreign sellers. It's hard to imagine how I could ever have contacted these people otherwise."

One of Hall's most prized collectible is a set design sketch for The Long, Long Trailer from the MGM art department. In the summer of 1953, an army unit took a tour of the MGM soundstage where the film was being shot. The sketch had been discarded, and a soldier picked it up as a souvenir. He kept it for 51 years, then his wife listed it on eBay, and Hall won the auction. He wrote the seller to see if she had any similar sketches, or anything else related to the movie, and she replied by telling Hall how, while they were stationed in California all those years ago, her husband brought home the sketch as a souvenir of his tour of MGM. "Not many papers like that were saved by the studios," says Hall. "This one probably only survived because the soldier picked it up off the floor. It's a great story, and a great item."

Of the posters, Hall's favorite is the Italian The Long, Long Trailer poster. "It's got a fantastic design that features a cityscape with skyscrapers, a scene that was inspired by a sequence in the movie, but it is much more elaborate on the poster," says Hall. "It feels special because it was the second poster I purchased -- which means it really set off my collection -- and also because it is one of my only posters purchased in a gallery that I haven't seen on eBay, ever, so that makes it a real rarity. The Belgian poster is another favorite. I haven't seen it on eBay again since I won it four years ago."

The most expensive item in Hall's collection is the French poster, the one he purchased in the Chelsea shop that started it all. "The identical poster has turned up three times on eBay in the past six years. The winning bids seem like a bargain compared to what I paid! But if I hadn't made that original purchase, I wouldn't be collecting these foreign posters at all, so I try not to think about the money. You can find a great breadth of items on eBay that are obtainable at a bargain price, even if they are rare or obscure."

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