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Chicago collector donates movie posters to Academy

By Mark Caro, Tribune reporter

5:12 PM EST, January 29, 2013

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced Tuesday that is has received a major gift of vintage movie posters from a Chicago collector, Dwight Cleveland.

The donated 1,088 posters cover the pre-1945 era of filmmaking, concentrating on "B" movies and spanning westerns, war films, musicals, biblical tales and social-issue films, and they’ll be housed in the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library.

"We think it’s terrific,” library director Linda Mehr said Tuesday. "The quantity is kind of amazing, and it documents mostly ‘B’ films, which often you don’t get coverage on yet are important in American cultural and motion picture history."

Cleveland, a Lincoln Park real-estate developer, said Tuesday that he actually made the donation in December 2011; the gift was mentioned in a March 2012 Tribune profile of him in which he discussed trying to find a home for his “Core Archive” of 11,000Ö posters among the 35,000 he had collected. Mehr said the Academy waited to make the announcement until it had cataloged the entire collection so it would be available for viewing and research.

Cleveland said there was a financial aspect to the donation — he took a tax deduction — but his greater goal was to “prime the pump” for a philanthropist to buy or at least help to present his historical collection in museums and other public arenas.

“I’m hoping somebody will realize that this (collection) is an important American art asset and that it’s worth more as a whole than it is broken up and that they will essentially save this for film scholars and art scholars and cultural historians,” Cleveland said.

Mehr shared Cleveland’s enthusiasm over the cultural, historical importance of movie posters.

“We do think that it’s a critical element in understanding the art of motion pictures,” she said. “Obviously the most important thing is the motion picture itself, but the posters are often a unique art form on their own, and they reveal how the film was sold to the public. For social historians, cultural historians, they become important documents in another sense.”