The landmark Michael Armstrong film poster and memorabilia collection has proved a sell-out success at Ewbanks
, taking more than three times expectations to total just over £155,000.
The top price at the May 7 auction was £5,500 for two wooden Front of House card display frames from the former Regal Cinema in Wymondham, the late Mr Armstrongs home town. The estimate had been just £200-400, but such was Armstrongs standing in the local community, as well as in the film world as the champion of the movies, that this unique piece of memorabilia proved to be much sought after.
Among the posters, the best seller was a 1968 British Quad example for The Beatles Yellow Submarine, which took a premium-inclusive £3,000 against hopes of £700-1,000.
Beatles film posters for A Hard Days Night and Help sold for £2,250 and £1,750 against estimates of £500-800 each.
A rare British Quad for the 1963 Steve McQueen WWII epic The Great Escape made £2,750, having been estimated at £800-1,200.
All of the top 20 posters went for four-figure sums in a sale that saw every one of the 346 lots change hands.
The single-owner film poster and memorabilia collection was so large that the auction house had to delay the auction by a week in order to complete cataloguing it.
But the vast size of the Michael Armstrong collection, consigned by his family was not its most important feature, as Ewbanks partner and specialist Alastair McCrea reveals.
The outstanding factor is its condition. Michael Armstrong was the longstanding and final projectionist at The Regal cinema in Wymondham, Suffolk before it closed in 1993 and he retained all of the promotional posters and lobby cards in first class condition. So unlike other posters and cinema memorabilia, they have not been damaged in any way by changing hands from collector to collector.
Expected to fetch a hammer total of around £50,000, it included dozens of single lots comprising 25 sets of Front of House cards each set with eight cards in it as well as press books, movie brochures and, of course, the film posters themselves. In all, it made up thousands of single items.
McCrea explains why The Beatles posters did so well.
You dont often see original posters for the three Beatles films, A Hard Days Night, Help! and Yellow Submarine, so that is rare enough in itself, but in this case the fine condition made them turning up together an outstanding opportunity both for film poster collectors and Beatles fans.
The range of film genres was also mind boggling, from Westerns and war films to comedy and horror. The titles read like an A to Z of film classic from the 1960s onwards.
The late Michael Armstrong, who died in November 2020 aged 73, was such a film fanatic that when the local cinema closed in his hometown of Wymondham, Norfolk in 1993, he opened his own mini replica, complete with its recycled fixtures and fittings, by converting the garage at his home.
Michael then went on to establish The Regal Experience, a sell-out Sunday afternoon film show that attracted many of the stars who appeared in the films to visit, including Virginia McKenna. The events were used to raise money for charity.
He was also known in Hollywood where he travelled to film conventions, meetings stars like Debbie Reynolds, Tony Curtis, Jean Simmons and Richard Kiel, who famously played Jaws in the Bond films he even visited some of them at their homes.
Michael Armstrong was a one-off and the sort of avid collector that dealers, other collectors and auction houses like ours dream about, said McCrea. To have such an extensive collection and to have taken such great care over it is a tribute to the magic of cinema. This auction was our tribute to Michael, and we are not surprised that so many film fans paid their respects in this way.