Rare "Metropolis" film poster to hit auction block

LOS ANGELES Tue Dec 4, 2012 7:44pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Several bidders are jockeying to buy the world's highest-valued film poster - a rare copy of the groundbreaking 1927 science-fiction film "Metropolis" - in a bankruptcy auction, an attorney handling the sale said on Tuesday.

The poster, along with eight other old film posters, will fetch at least $700,000 collectively at a December 13 court auction in Los Angeles. The amount was set in an initial stalking horse bid, which sets a floor for bankruptcy auction prices, that the court approved in November.

Directed by Austrian Fritz Lang, the expressionist "Metropolis" was the most expensive silent film at the time of its release. The film is considered a landmark in early cinema with its special effects and futuristic dystopian plot.

The poster, one of four known surviving copies, was illustrated by German Heinz Schulz-Neudamm. One copy is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The "Metropolis" poster is the crown jewel of the collection and was purchased by California collector Kenneth Schachter for a record $690,000 in 2005 private sale.

"We do expect people to overbid," Marcus A. Tompkins, a lawyer for the bankruptcy trustee, told Reuters. "We've been getting a lot of inquiries."

Schachter, a resident of Valencia about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles, filed for bankruptcy last year after he was unable to repay loans he received to buy film memorabilia.

The initial bid was placed by Cinema Archives Inc, a New Jersey-based memorabilia company.

Higher bids begin at $735,000 and bankruptcy trustee John J. Menchaca cited at least five serious bidders from the United States, Canada and other countries.

"We probably won't find out (the number of bidders) for sure until the day before," Menchaca said.

Other notable items in the sale include an original "King Kong" poster and an "Invisible Man" poster, both from 1933.

The sale will go to pay off Schachter's debts, which he listed at no more than $1 million when filing for bankruptcy.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey)

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