An extremely rare original publicity poster for the 1931 Film Dracula has been sold for a whopping $525,800 at auction, which is thought to be the highest amount of money ever paid for a movie poster.
The 1931 Dracula film, which starred Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler, was one of the very first horror films ever made by a major Hollywood Studio.
The film was based on the 1924 stage play of the same name, which in turn had been based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel.
Dracula was the first time that mainstream American cinemagoers had seen a supernatural horror film that was end-to-end horror. Other horror films had gone before, such as the 1927 The Cat and the Canary, but they had either a comical side to them, or an ending that suggested the events depicted weren’t supernatural after all. There had been Nosferatu in 1922, but that unauthorised film version of the Dracula story had only initially been shown in Europe.
When Dracula was shown in American cinemas, there were newspaper reports of people in the audience fainting at early screenings of the film. However, that turned out to have been a publicity ploy staged by the studio.
No one was sure that the American public would like a full-on horror film like Dracula, but the studio’s gamble paid off. The publicity surrounding the film led many people going to watch it, if only to see what all the fuss was about. The film made an initial profit of $700,000 profit and it became Universal Studio’s biggest movie of 1931.
Back in 1931, what was acceptable in films was, of course, far different from what is acceptable today. There was a closing scene, or “curtain speech”, of the film in which an announcer said:
“Just a moment, ladies and gentlemen! A word before you go. We hope the memories of Dracula and Renfield won't give you bad dreams, so just a word of reassurance. When you get home tonight and the lights have been turned out and you are afraid to look behind the curtains — and you dread to see a face appear at the window — why, just pull yourself together and remember that after all, there are such things as vampires!"
This was deleted by the censors on the grounds that it might encourage the belief that the supernatural does exist. The scene has never been seen again and is now presumed lost forever. So, if you ever find a reel of film in a dusty box in your attic marked “Dracula – Deleted Scene” hang on to it, because it will be worth a small fortune!
There was a whole series of Dracula posters made to promote the film. The originals of these posters are now very rare and valuable. Any one of the original posters will be worth in excess of $100,000. One Dracula posters that had once been owned by Nicolas Cage was sold in 2009 for $310,700.
However, the recent sale of a rare Dracula poster far outstrips that price. An original of the poster featuring Bel Lugosi as Dracula was sold by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions for $525,800. It is believed to be one of only two of this particular Dracula Movie Poster that is still in existence.
The Dracula poster was bought by an anonymous buyer. It was put up for auction by the family of George J. Mitchell Jr, who had owned the poster since the 1950s. The son of George Mitchell, Arthur, was hoping that the poster would fetch around $12,000, so he got a nice surprise when it sold for over $500,000!
So, hang on to those horror movie posters that you have folks, because you never know!