A Short History of Japanese Movie Pamphlets

Japanese movie programs or souvenir pamphlets are only sold in theaters during the movie`s run. They are often a good source of detailed information and images, differing in content from the standard publicity material that can be found in most countries. Programs are usually 21 x 31 cm with color and/or black and white photos, production photos, and cast information. If the movie was in the theaters, it had a movie program.

Movie programs didn’t gain popularity until after World War II . Most of the programs produced were for American and other foreign movies. The first programs were 18 x 25 cm fold out pamphlets printed on newsprint. These were cheaply made and only had one page.

By the 1950s most programs, while still printed on newsprint, now had at least 6 pages with more vibrant pictures from the movie and color covers with advertisements on the back cover. Some had the synopses of the movie written in English even if the movie was produced in Japan.

The 1960s with the rise of the Japanese economy better quality programs were released. The size was increased to 21 x 31 cm and the pages were now a high gloss paper with more color photos. This is now the standard for nearly all the programs produced in Japan.

Movie programs are still being produced but they are falling in popularity. Most programs today have a limited print run. A while ago I talked to a theater manager and he told me that during the 1970s and up thru the 1990s there were as many pamphlets sold as there were tickets at that cinema! I believe him. No matter where I am shopping for new items I can always find and an Over the Top movie program. Now, a few 100 per theater are sold for the biggest blockbuster.

I have been buying, collecting and selling (often in that order) Japan movie programs for almost 20 years. If there are any wants or questions please contact me.