One of just two surviving movie posters for the 1931 horror classic Dracula set a world record for the most valuable movie poster ever sold at auction when it brought $525,800 Saturday, Nov. 18, in apublic auction held live and online by Heritage Auctions.
The poster surpassed the previous auction record of $478,000 which was also set (twice) by Heritage Auctions. Heritage had just sold the only known surviving Italian issue movie poster from 1946 for Casablanca in July 2017, which matched their own previous world record from November 2014 for an only-known 1927 copy of the poster for London After Midnight.
This particular poster style from Dracula depicts the menacing visage of actor Bela Lugosi, who transformed the character into the now-famous Universal Monster. Recently discovered in the San Diego, California, collection of a noted film historian, collectors and experts consider it one of the most desirable horror movie posters ever produced.
The family of its longtime owner, Lt. Col. George J. Mitchell, Jr., an Associate Member of the American Society of Cinematographers, placed the poster up for auction. Mitchell had owned the poster since the 1950s.
“The reason my dad purchased the poster is because he loved horror films. He was drawn to the Bela Lugosi poster because it brought back childhood memories of seeing the film when it was first released,” Mitchell’s son, Arthur Mitchell said. “He remembered going to the theater … and remembered that there was an ambulance stationed in the lobby, in case anyone was so scared they needed medical attention.”
The elder Mitchell was a longtime cinematographer and photographer, who after World War II and a 20-year career in the U.S. Army, started a small film production company in San Diego, and did video work for AFL and NFL Films, the San Diego Zoo and training films for assorted branches of the military.
“It is a matter of opinion, but this poster probably is the most beautiful of all of the styles,” Heritage Auctions Vintage Posters Director Grey Smith said, “and one of only two styles that pictures Bela Lugosi in realistic terms or a faithful rendering – the other is a photographic image.”