When Mike Kaplan started working as a Hollywood publicist in the 1960s, he didn’t just bring his love of movies to the job but his love of movie posters. “I always claimed that if a movie was good, there should be a way of making it commercially profitable,” Kaplan said. “And if it hadn’t been profitable, it was due to the fact that the campaign wasn’t correct, and the campaign largely rests on two things: the trailer and the key art.”
It was around that time that the kind of posters he loved as a kid growing up in the ‘40s and ‘50s – glossy illustrated images that allowed an artist some poetic license with the film – were being phased out in favor of posters that foregrounded photography or film stills.
The richly color-saturated posters of his childhood were in danger of being lost altogether, in fact, because after one poster would be displayed at a movie house during a film’s run it would travel with that film to the next theater where it was set to show. Wear and tear, if not the outright destruction of the poster, was inevitable.
So in the late ‘70s Kaplan started assembling what would become a collection of 4,000 to 5,000 posters, some of which were displayed in the largest exhibition of movie posters ever by a major art museum when they were put on view earlier this year at LACMA. Building off the success of his previous book “Gotta Dance,” Kaplan also released “Gotta Dance Too! The Art of the Dance Movie Poster,” and starting next spring 100 of those dance movie posters will be on display at the National Museum of Dance at Saratoga Springs, New York.
Click through the gallery to find out how Kaplan assembled the world’s greatest movie poster collection and what these images reveal about Hollywood history.