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Mr. Hollywood 

Morrie Everett’s movie poster empire draws the collectible world to Kirtland

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Cinevent in Columbus is one of the premier film-collectible gatherings anywhere. It's held every year over Memorial Day weekend, and it specializes in drawing out the diehards.

"Nothing could prevent me from going," says Chicago collector Dwight Cleveland, a real estate developer by trade, but a cinema nut by passion. "It's the ultimate movie poster orgy."

As a kid, Cleveland, like Everett, was among the few obsessed with movie swag.

"You had to go to the theater and beg for the poster," he says. "They had a usable life of three or four days when the film ran, and then they were garbage. The fact that these things survived is remarkable. People loved to draw mustaches on Greta Garbo."

Cleveland says he's spent a lifetime on the hunt for classic posters.

"I would visit old theaters; I would find people who worked there. I would go to flea markets at five in the morning with a flashlight. I would make a lot of calls, follow a lot of leads. I would visit antique malls when I was on the road. I have visited every continent except Antarctica."

Thanks to Cinevent and other soirees like it, the hunt has been tamed to a great degree.

But for 19 years and counting, one of the highlights of each Cinevent is the auction of Morrie Everett's vintage posters. This year, he put 700 lots on the block and has brought in $162,000 so far — he's still tallying business from last month's fest.

This time around, Faust and Hot Stuff were among the hot lots. Neither one had ever been offered at auction before, says Everett.

"The hunt is part of the fun," he admits, in an echo of Cleveland's words. He enjoys recounting the story about someone who bought a sealed briefcase at a garage sale. When the man got home and opened it, he found a promotional piece called a "six sheet" for the 1931 Universal Studios classic Frankenstein. It was the only known copy. Since it was a private sale, no one's sure what it brought. But Everett has heard the rumor that the owner turned down a million dollars. It might have been worth $3 million, he says.

Local author, radio historian, and movie lover Mike Olszewski has known Everett since the 1990s, when he first wandered into his downtown store. He's been a regular at Cinevent since 1995, forever looking for Cleveland-related stuff and all things pertaining to radio or television.

"I always keep an eye out for anything to do with Superman," he says. "I always loved the idea that Superman came from Cleveland."

Those who flock to Everett's film-feast auctions are a mixed bag of the hardcore and the humble, and Olszewski seems to know his place.

"I could spend every penny in my pocket," he says. "My wife gives it to me in increments."

There is disagreement over the most expensive movie poster ever sold, but it wasn't sold by Everett. He is certain it's one for Metropolis, director Fritz Lang's groundbreaking 1927 expressionist film about the conflict in capitalism between workers and owners. He's heard it went for $600,000, but it could have been more. "No one knows the exact number," he says.

Everett's personal best falls somewhat short of that mark. He's had four pieces exceed $80,000, including a 14x30-inch Invisible Man insert that sold in the high $80,000s. "We have yet to breach the $100,000 price tag — but we will," he says.

"What makes my collection valuable is not the individual pieces, but the breadth and depth," he says. "You can name any title, and I will have something on it."

Sure enough, he makes good on the challenge immediately: At the request of a reporter, Everett produces material on the obscure 1962 Disney film In Search of the Castaways, based on a Jules Verne adventure novel and starring Hayley Mills.

(Everett's encyclopedic range is evidenced by a second business he owns in New York: a firm that leases photos and movie art to various publications. His collection numbers more than 3 million photographs.)

He says horror is the most popular genre, with films by legendary actors like Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff at the top of the list.

"Our Gang is hot. The Three Stooges are still hot. And animation. From a collectible standpoint, we have a better chance with young people with those things than '40s film noir."

Ahh ... young people. He sees few of them, but holds out hope that their interest will be sparked in time to carry the pastime forward.

"The youngest person who sat through the whole auction, bid on a poster, and won, was 30," he says. "That's not typical. The average is about 60. You have to tie a young person down to watch a black-and-white film."

The key, Everett believes, is in looking for where young people's interests cross over into film collectibles. He's excited about an upcoming show presented by a young (fortysomething) man in Erie, Pennsylvania, in November. Everett plans to attend, after a sweep of events in Paris, London, New York, and Los Angeles.

"We do have an advantage over markets in jeopardy. You go to postcard shows, and everyone is over 70. Movies are still hot. Europeans and Japanese love American movies.

"We have a business we can expand and sell to young people," says Everett. "We still can survive."

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