Avid film lovers are familiar with how captivating a movie poster can be. Putting a copy on your bedroom, living room, or man cave wall is a great way to relive the thrill. But can movie theaters give you movie posters, or do you have to buy them? 

Under most circumstances, movie theaters can give old movie posters away after the film’s release. However, this can vary depending on the theaters’ agreement with the production studios. Sometimes theaters are required to destroy, recycle, or donate old posters. 

If you’re wondering how to get a free poster after the film, you’re in the right place. Keep reading, and we’ll help you!

What Do Movie Theaters Do With Old Movie Posters? 

What theaters do with old movie posters depends on the agreement they have with the production company. In most cases, the theaters give the posters away to high-performing employees. However, in some cases, they must destroy, recycle, or return the posters to the production studio. 

Different theaters have their own rules regarding how they dispose of or gift old movie posters. In most cases, theaters do one or more of the following: 

  • Gift posters to their friends
  • Gift posters to the staff 
  • Give them away as a reward to their team 
  • Store them in a storage closet 
  • Recycle them 
  • Destroy them 
  • Return them to the studio 
  • Give them to a charity auction

Most theaters aren’t forbidden from giving old posters to the public. However, they’re more likely to give out posters to people they like or know. If you’re polite and kind and try to get to know the staff personally, you’re more likely to get a copy. 

Although, in some circumstances, the theaters can’t give the posters away to the public. This is usually due to an agreement between the theater and the studio. The reasons behind this rule are multifaceted, but it usually involves encouraging better merchandise sales. 

In other words, they want to prevent plagiarized posters from being sold illegally. They also want to encourage theatergoers to purchase promotional materials rather than get free merchandise. 

There aren’t usually any rules forbidding the theaters from giving the posters away to their staff. Unless the theaters agree to return the promotional material after the film’s release, these free poster giveaways to staff are occasionally used as a reward system. 

Theaters give out old posters for employee of the month or for other high-performing employees. It works as an effective employee reward system, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask! 

Also, you may be wondering if movie theaters ever sell posters. It’s actually a slippery slope which we discuss here, Can You Buy Movie Posters From Theaters?

We’ll explore how to get your hands on a poster in the sections below. 

Movie Theater

Are Theaters Allowed to Sell Old Movie Posters? 

Under most circumstances, theaters are not allowed to sell old movie posters. Copyright law and other exclusive rights the movie studio holds prevent reproducing or selling copies. It can also forbid the sale of materials given to theaters for promotional purposes. 

Copyright law protects how images and promotional materials are used and displayed. It allows the copyright owner to decide who can use and display the images. This applies to movie posters and promotional materials given to the theater by the studio. 

Most theaters are not allowed to sell the old posters given to them for the film release. One of the main reasons for this is the theaters do not have permission to sell the posters. 

Since the theaters do not own the images or the film, they’re not allowed to make a profit from them. This doesn’t apply to the posters for sale behind the concession stand. This only applies to the posters given to the theater to promote the film’s release. 

In some instances, you can purchase old ones at a charity auction, but this depends on the agreement with the theater. In most circumstances, the theaters must destroy, donate, or gift the old posters to their staff. 

If you want to purchase high-quality posters, you can check out some online stores. However, below we’ll give you pointers on how to ask the theater for a free poster!

Best Tips For Getting Posters from Theaters

Wait Until After the Film’s Release

The very first thing you should be concerned about before asking for a free poster is when to ask! If you visit the theater on opening night, you should be cautious when asking for a free poster. The theater is supposed to use these posters and cutouts to promote the movie while in theaters. 

You’re much more likely to get a copy if you wait until after the film’s release date. Some guests try to ask in advance to save a copy for themselves. However, this puts much pressure on the staff and management to remember. 

If you’re asking for posters, try to wait until the theater release date passes.

Be Kind to the Staff

Be polite to the theater staff regardless of whether you’re hoping to score a free poster. However, being courteous to the staff will help increase your odds of getting a free poster. 

Additionally, try to get to know them on a personal level. Attending one theater regularly will show them your loyalty. 

They’re much more likely to give you one if they know you and see your loyalty. 

Give Context to Your Request 

If you can think of a good reason, try to give context or a back story to your request. While we don’t encourage people to lie, people sometimes lie to get a free poster. 

There are ways to get a free poster without lying or claiming to have a young nephew who really wants it! 

You can say something similar to the following:

  • Talk about your love for the movie 
  • Share your knowledge of the franchise
  • Talk to the staff about the poster design to show how much you like it 
  • Be considerate and only ask for one copy 
  • If you’re asking for a child (your child, a nephew/niece, a grandchild, etc.), make sure you tell them. 

Purchase a Copy at the Concession Stand 

Movie posters are sometimes sold at concession stands. However, they won’t be the original promotional material. 

Occasionally, you can find a copy online being sold by a staff member or by someone who got it as a gift. However, this may or may not be legal, depending on the agreement between the theater and the studio. 

Box Office

Work at a Local Theater 

As we previously discussed, working at a theater is one of the best ways to get free material. Most of the time, theaters have whole storage spaces set aside for old promotional material like posters. 

This means they have plenty to share with their best staff! If you’re hoping to get some free posters, working at a local theater is one of the best ways, especially if you are ambitious. 

Work hard and try to set yourself apart. This is especially effective if you work at a theater with an employee of the month award. 

Other theaters just have a list in the staff room where employees can claim posters. These are given on a first-come, first-served basis! 

Closing Thoughts

We hope this article helps you get your hands on a poster the next time you visit the theaters. Just remember to always be polite and wait until the film’s release date ends! 

The staff at the theaters are usually very accommodating to these requests. As fellow film fans, they typically understand why you might one a copy to display on the wall of your home! 

If you’re looking for more advice, from fair use to the history of film poster production, check out our website! Poster Grind is the top place for all your movie and poster-related questions. 


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