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Kevin Brianton Collector Profile Richardson Studio Movie Posters

By on December 3, 2013

This month’s featured Australian Movie Poster Collector is Kevin Brianton from Melbourne. Kevin has been collecting Richardson Studio Movie Posters for many years.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live and what do you do for a living?

I have worked in journalism and public relations for about 30 years. In my spare time, I did a masters and PhD in film history and I recently have managed to combine my academic and professional interests. I now lecture in Strategic Communications at La Trobe University in Melbourne, as well as performing some consultancy work. I may have my first book published shortly on the HUAC period in America cinema.

What motivated you to start collecting movie posters?

My interest in movie poster collecting extended directly from my interest in cinema history. The posters became hobby when I started to look at them as more than historical objects. It really began when I went to the first Bill Collins auction in Melbourne and I bought a few posters including some Richardson daybills. It really started there.

How long have you been collecting movie posters?

About 25 years.

What was the first poster you acquired and do you still have it? Do you remember where you purchased it?

My first poster was an Australian one-sheet of Chariots of Fire, which I stuck up on the wall with blue tack. It fell down about 50 times, before I threw it out. In retrospect I felt guilty about it and I got another one later. I looked after that one!

Richardson Studio Movie PostersYou are probably one of the first collectors to appreciate Richardson Studio Movie posters. What do you think is the appeal of posters produced by The Richardson Studio?

Alongside RKO, Richardson Studio is one of the great Australian movie poster design houses. It is certainly one of the best in the world. It is interesting that many American auction houses are now advertising them as such. The beauty is due to the sheer amount of work they put into the posters, copying the American design but with their own style. Using a limited set of colours and then providing beautiful art work design. Quite often, their copy is superior to the original. Although, it must be said sometimes the design simply does not work. I think it demonstrates the forgotten artistry of the commercial poster designer. This was a business, but it is now recognised for its art.

There seem to be more collectors who now look specifically for Richardson Studio Movie posters. Have you found that prices have increased as a result?

They have increased out of sight. It is a testament to the quality of the Richardson Studio that the posters are being sought after. Even the most minor and common ones are now fetching at least $20. It used to be $2. At the other end of the scale, some titles go into the thousands such as Rear Window.

Richardson Studio Movie PostersMovie Posters that bear John Richardson’s signature are quite scarce. Have you been able to find any for your collection?

Yes. I have had three and sold one. The Eagles Feather (1923) and Montmartre (1924) are the ones I have now. Clearly, the fact that he signed the posters shows he considered it to be his art. He stopped signing when he began the studio. He worked for some other movie studios and then worked almost exclusively for Paramount. We do not know how many were done by his hand, but the quality suggests he kept firm control for most of his career. I expect he was a demanding man with high standards. You cannot maintain that high standard for so long without those qualities. Richardson Studio appears to have started in 1923 or 1924 and finished in 1960 – suggesting it is the working life span of John Richardson. It lived and died with him.

Do you collect any other posters apart from Richardson Studio?

I have several sub-collections. I have written quite extensively on the politics of the film director Cecil B. DeMille. I try to collect his daybills, which are also Richardson studio. DeMille was one of the founders of Paramount studio. I have one daybill from the silent period and some from the sound period and in time the collection will be donated to the Cecil B. DeMille Archive at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where I have completed a lot of research. I also have a small collection of posters from the 1920s which I will donate to a museum at some stage. I also collect lobby card sets of films I like. Some are expensive such as The Searchers (1956) and others are just hard to find like The Night has a Thousand Eyes (1948) and are relatively cheap.

Melbourne seems to be the Australian hub for Collectibles. There used to be a number of retail outlets but the internet seems to have taken over. Did you spend much time looking for posters are some of the stores that used to sell posters like Moviola, etc?

No, I really just haunt the internet. The internet has basically killed the storefront operation. Places like Movie Posterama still operate, which is great, but often a year goes by before I enter a store.

Richardson Studio Movie PostersAre any of the posters in your collection linen backed?

I try to linen back all posters that are deteriorating or being framed. I like to safeguard some of the heritage with which we are entrusted. I linen back posters from the 1920s as I really want to safeguard them as they are incredibly scarce.

How difficult is it to find posters for your collection?

The internet has made it a breeze. There are simply too many options. This year has seen some fantastic sales of Richardson Studio posters, with titles I have never seen before. It is sometimes famine, but not at the moment.

Do you sometimes find yourself in competition with other collectors that you know?

All the time. I see about four or five names constantly in the market for the same thing. Sometimes, I might ease up if someone really wants something and I know them, but not too often.

What is missing from your collection that you would love to obtain?

I would love to get the daybill of Sunset Boulevard. It is a nice Richardson Studio poster and a film I really like. A lobby card from Safety Last (1923) or a one-sheet of The Thing (1951) would be great.

Richardson Studio Movie PostersDo you think you will ever get to a point when you feel that your collection is complete?

Absolutely not. That is the great thing about collecting – it never finishes. There are always more available. I would think that there are more than 2500 Richardson Studio Movie posters. You could find one a week for fifty years and only just make it.

Have you ever purchased a large collection of posters?

No, I buy at auctions and online. I bought about 20 posters from a collector once, but that was a one-off.

Do you trade with other collectors?

Sometimes, but it is hard to do with people having different interests. I prefer to buy and sell.

Are any of the posters in your collection on display ie framed in your home?

I have a 1930s home with picture rails. Many of my favourites are on display. I cannot show them all.

Have you ever had any problems with linen backing or framing?

It is important to be very careful with framers. They insist on mounting the poster. This happened once with a poster which was not very valuable. I now entrust my framing to specialists such as Movie Posterama in Melbourne, or linen backing with Studio M in Sydney because I know they do it right.

How do you keep track of your collection? Do you have a compete inventory of everything that you have?

I don’t keep track of it. I have registered and photographed some for insurance. I open boxes and get surprises. It’s a hobby, not an investment portfolio.

Have you ever missed out on getting a poster that you really wanted?

There are legions of posters I want, but I just cannot afford them. But there are special ones. I once was in an auction for a US one sheet for That Hamliton Woman and it went beyond my limit. I was depressed for days. I never realised how much I wanted it. Fortunately, it came up again and I just got it. Sometimes, you need to pay the price.

Is there one favourite poster in your collection?

None, really. I mentioned That Hamilton Woman. The General lobby card from 1926 featuring Buster Keaton is very special as I never thought I would find one. The Rebecca (1940) daybill from my wife for my 50th birthday is also very special.

Do you sell posters that you lose interest in?

I have sold the bulk of my movie posters on one occasion when I started my business. I have only really regretted selling three of my posters – Alias Nick Beal (1949), Union Station (1950) and The Big Clock (1948). I never lost interest in them.

Do you collect anything else apart from Movie Posters?

I also collect first edition Penguin paperbacks – the first 100. I have 95.

What do you think of modern posters – design, artwork, etc?

I class anything from 1960 as modern. Certainly Australian design fell away in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the more recent posters are very good. The last one I bought was for the latest release of The Great Gatsby (2013), which I thought was brilliant artwork. I also bought Midnight in Paris (2011) – the Woody Allen film. I have posters from all periods. I like a lot of the East European posters and I think the Czech poster of The Terminator (1984) is one of the great designs – far surpassing the American artwork. However, the most contemporary poster on my wall I have is the US one sheet of 1900 which is in an art deco style. The artwork from the 1930s and 1940s remains superior. However, I always look at new posters and I am often tempted to get one or two.

Do you think movie posters are a good investment? When you buy posters for your collection, do you hope that they will appreciate in value?

Shares are a good investment. Term deposits are a good investment. Property is a good investment. Superannuation is an excellent way to invest. One of my posters, Things to Come (1936), exploded in value and I sold it for a healthy profit – that was nice. In the main, collecting movie posters is fun. If you do it to make money with posters, I think you are missing the point. I have sold some posters at a profit and some at a loss. Yes, you can make money if you are dealing in bulk and over time. You can also get lucky with one or two posters. The chances are that the poster you paid a premium for, will be out of fashion when you come to sell it. Buy them because you love them – that’s all. Otherwise, BHP shares when the market is in a downturn.

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 Thanks to Kevin for a fascinating insight into his Movie Poster Collection. The unique artwork  of Richardson Studio Movie Posters has become highly sought after over the years and Kevin has a significant collection. For images of Richardson Studio Movie Posters see The Richardson Studio Exhibition.

Historical information on the Richardson Studio or John Richardson himself is very scarce.

Kevin Brianton would be interested in writing a paper on the Richardson Studio and would welcome any information. He can be contacted through this site using the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Watch this space for more profiles of Australian Movie Poster Collectors – coming soon!

About John Reid

2 Comments

  1. Janet Matthews

    December 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Wow! That sounds so cool! You must have an amazing collection.

  2. Rob Coulson

    December 20, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    What an excellent article. Collecting is about what you love or what inspires you, not about making a profit. Congratulations on amassing a magnificent collection over 25 years. I would love to view such a collection. Thankyou for sharing your passion with the general public. Cheers Rob

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