http://www.vancouversun.com/entertainme ... story.html
Lost and found: Vintage movie posters fetch $50,000
By Thandiwe Vela, Edmonton Journal July 20, 2010
EDMONTON — Blair Pitre thought he was just clearing trash from the walls and roof of his newly purchased home — until he started seeing movie posters with actors such as Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo.
In the process of demolishing the century-old bungalow in downtown Lacombe, Alta., Pitre had discovered more than 360 vintage movie posters from silent film features and the earliest Hollywood talkies.
Crouching in the small, dark space, Pitre carefully began removing the valuable posters from the crumbling walls and floorboards with a small set of pliers.
The 39-year-old general contractor purchased the home, just north of Red Deer, Alta., in 2007. The previous owner, a woman in her 80s who had died a year before, was believed to be the granddaughter of an early-20th-century Lacombe-area movie-house owner.
"All I really did was open up some walls," Pitre said. "It was pure luck. The colour was still fabulous. I don't know how they survived."
A glossy poster of Gary Cooper in 1930s western The Spoilers was among 40 of Pitre's rare film-history finds that went up for auction in a Dallas gallery Friday and Saturday, netting him almost $50,000 U.S. in earnings. Also included was a poster of Garbo in her first talking picture, 1930's Anna Christie.
Dallas' Heritage Auction Galleries director of vintage movie posters Grey Smith said it was a pleasant surprise when they were first contacted about Pitre's finds. The posters are especially valuable because they are from a unique period in film history, when the industry was transitioning from silent film to sound in the late '20s and early '30s.
"They were important and valuable posters," said Smith, adding they were greatly sought after and still in nice condition.
Pitre's biggest draw at the weekend auction was a half-sheet insert from 1929 action-drama Bulldog Drummond, which was bought for almost $9,000.
The vintage posters-collecting community is very active, Smith said, including celebrities such filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and movie fans who "just want to own a little piece of history."
It's "very rare" to find such valuable posters used as insulation or behind walls, Smith said, but Pitre now thinks it's worth a check.
"You never know what you might find," Pitre said. "But I wouldn't advise anybody to go knocking down their walls thinking they're going to find movie posters."
Pitre is hoping to find more coveted posters in the home, particularly from early horror and science fiction films such as Metropolis from 1927. He's been told a poster from that film can fetch up to $1 million.
"If I find that one, I'll be smiling a little bit more," Pitre said.
Money from the auction of his movie posters will go toward restoring his home, Pitre said, which is expected to cost about $100,000.
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