What is a Movie Poster 'Snipe'?
If you are reading about old movie posters, you will sometimes come across the term ‘a snipe’.
In the context of movie posters, it’s not a type of wading bird or a sly comment, but, a piece of paper that has been stuck on to the poster, sometime after the poster was printed.
There are a few reasons that a snipe might be used and we’ll take a look at a few of them within this blog post.
First up, posters that were designed with a snipe in mind...
Posters Designed for Snipes
Stock posters were produced with the option of multiple use. “Commando Cody : Sky Marshal of the Universe”, was a 12 episode movie serial shown in cinemas, probably as part of the Saturday morning show. The poster was issued to cover all 12 episodes, with a blank space where the title of this week’s episode could be added.
When issued, our poster would have looked like this…
Theatres would then have the option to either use the poster once, printing the current episode title on to the poster (as they did with our poster, “Robot Monster of Mars”, which was episode 7), or, to glue a ‘snipe’ in to the yellow box. This could then be glued over for the following week’s episode, saving the cost of a new poster.
Some countries have used poster formats specifically designed for the addition of snipes. Belgium is a particularly good example. (As are the ‘Windows Cards’ of the U.S.)
In the Belgian poster below for “The Return of the Pink Panther” (1975), we can see that the top portion of the poster is deliberately left blank so that the cinema / movie theatre can add their own information to it.
In the example below for “The Amityville Horror” (1979), the theatre has hand-written in the date and time of shows.
However, in the poster below, for “Tennessee’s Partner” (1955) starring a ‘pre-President of the USA’ Ronald Reagan, we can see that the top of the poster has been both printed on, and then used again for a pasted on snipe.
Other Reasons for a Snipe
Snipes have also beed added to posters that were not specifically designed for them.
Typical examples are to add in rating information, as in the Australian Day Bill poster below for “Hot Stuff” (1979), where a “GY” rating snipe has been added to warn of “coarse language”. (“GY” was actually a New Zealand film classification meaning ‘general release, but more suitable for 13+’, so this poster must have also been used in New Zealand.)
Sometimes a ‘corrective snipe’ is used to address a mistake made when producing a poster.
In March 2019, Marvel released their highly anticipated movie poster for “Avengers : Endgame”. The poster shows thirteen key characters from the film, but, only twelve names were credited along the top of the poster. Danai Gurira’s name was missing.
Within hours, fans on social media were pointing out the mistake. Marvel’s response was immediate. In this digital world, a new poster with Danai Gurira’s name added was published on-line, together with an acknowledgement of the mistake, same day.
Before the digital age, things were a little different…
In November 2015, Christies auction house sold an original movie poster for the 1964 James Bond film “Goldfinger”. They noted despite her portrayal of the ‘golden girl’ of the film, Shirley Eaton’s name had been inadvertently missed from the poster. The error had been corrected by “… the placement of a ‘snipe’ – a stickered correction …” to the poster.
Sometimes, the ‘correction’ might not be contractual, but might be to protect the egos of some of the film’s stars…
The original U.S. half sheet movie poster for 1954’s “A Star is Born” claimed (clearly focussing on Judy Garland’s performance) that…
“We believe there hasn’t been before, even once, such a performance by a motion picture star, such perfection in motion picture entertainment.”
The posters having been printed, a snipe was later issued that changed the wording to…
“We believe there hasn’t been before, even once, such performances by motion picture stars, such perfection in motion picture entertainment.”
We have seen as many “A Star is Born” posters without the snipe as with, so clearly corrective snipes didn’t always make it on to a poster before it was used.
So, a snipe is simply a piece of paper stuck on to a movie poster after it was originally printed.
It might be there by original design, or, it might be a later, unplanned, addition.
Either way, if your poster has a snipe, it is an important and integral piece of the movie poster’s life. It may tell you more about where the poster was originally shown, what the studio was thinking about the film, or how the film was received.
Whatever the reason for the snipe, it’s a part of movie history.
Why not take a look at our catalogue of guaranteed original vintage and contemporary movie posters? With posters from the 1930s to the present day, perhaps you'll find your own piece of movie history to hang in your home.
Adam and the Art of the Movies