Terry Posters celebrates 15 years – and still has Terry Gilliam’s socks

The store with the largest collection of Czechoslovak film posters is open for the holidays

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 13.12.2020 10:16 (updated on 13.12.2020)

A shop with the largest collection of Czechoslovak film posters is celebrating 15 years of operation this month. Terry Posters — called Terry’s Socks (Terryho Ponožky) in Czech — is located near the box office for kino Světozor just off Wenceslas Square. It is open for holiday shopping even though the cinema itself is closed due to pandemic regulations.

The store’s odd name is because former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam was a fan of Prague’s main art house cinemas Světozor, Aero and Bio Oko, and made personal appearances to discuss his films.

When he heard the cinema operators were opening a poster shop, he gave them a pair of his socks as a good luck charm, and he attended the shop’s gala opening in December 2005. Gilliam was in Prague at the time directing the fairytale film The Brothers Grimm. One sock is still displayed at the store.

Gilliam was at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2018 with his most recent film, Don Quixote. “Is it still there? I hope they washed it,” Gilliam said when asked about his socks and his relationship to the store.

“I love being in Prague. … The guys in the [Terry Poster] shop are wonderful. That whole cinema complex is wonderful. I miss being there quite honestly. … I kind of get lost in that city. I just get completely seduced by it,” he said.

Since Terry Posters opened, it has become the largest private poster collection in the Czech Republic, containing more than 100,000 posters. Most of the collection is film posters designed by Czechoslovak artists, which are world-renowned for their artistic quality. A database of the posters is available online.

Terry Posters at the Světozor cinema.
Terry Posters at the Světozor cinema. (photo: Alex Shoots Buildings)

During the communist era, making film posters was one of the few areas where graphic artists could let their creativity run wild. The often surreal posters at times bore little connection to the actual content of the films.

This was especially true for foreign imports, as the designers many times did not have access to the original promotional material or even an outline of the plot.

The pre-revolution film posters were all commissioned by the state-run film distribution monopoly, Ústřední půjčovna filmů (ÚPF).

Terry Gilliam signs the base supporting his sock in 2005. (photo: Terry Posters)
Terry Gilliam signs the base supporting his sock in 2005. (photo: Terry Posters)

“Many leading artists of that time started to make posters because they couldn’t exhibit or sell their own works,” store founder Pavel Rajčan said previously.

Rajčan, who co-founded the Žižkov pub U Vystřelenýho oka in 1994, is behind the collection and activities of Terry Posters. In 1997, he started operating the modern incarnation of kino Aero in Žižkov. This eventually expanded to the three-cinema Prague art house network, plus related cinemas in Hradec Králové and Brno.

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A large number of the posters are quite rare, with only a few original copies surviving. Shortly after the Velvet Revolution, a stockpile of unused posters was destroyed as nobody at the time saw any value in preserving them. The idea was that the old Czechoslovak films would no longer be re-released, now that the floodgates of Hollywood films had opened for cinemas. So the old posters were seen as just taking up warehouse space.

Authorized reproduction of Olga Poláčková-Vyleťalová's poster for the 1969 French film A Gentle Woman. (photo: Terry Posters)
Poster by Olga Poláčková-Vyleťalová for the 1969 French film A Gentle Woman. (photo: Terry Posters)

To make some classic posters affordable, Terry Posters has also made reproductions of a few particularly striking classics. One recent example is a poster by Olga Poláčková-Vyleťalová for the 1969 French film A Gentle Woman (Něžná). It is limited to 1,000 copies.

Current film producers and international distributors now keep tight control over publicity, and it is no longer possible for a local distributor to allow local artists to make surreal posters. The Czechoslovak posters, as a result, are a time capsule of a specific era.

Terry Posters has also produced more than 200 exhibitions not only in the Czech Republic, but also in the United States, Japan, Spain, Poland and other countries.

Rajčan named two of his favorite posters in 2012, when there was an exhibition in New York to mark Miloš Forman’s 80th birthday. “Vladimír Bidlo’s poster for The Firemen’s Ball is a crazy collage poster but in perfect agreement with idea of movie,” he said. “As for well-known artists, I can name the poster for Audition by Jiří Šlitr, a very famous theater and music performer who had very big influence on the [Czech] cultural scene during ’60s and ’70s,” he said at the time.

Poster for the DVD release of Kinoautomat.
Poster for the DVD release of Kinoautomat. (photo: Terry Posters)

The store also sells DVDs of art films, postcards and some small fashion items, including of course film-themed socks. One film in particular that the the people behind Terry Posters had been involved in bringing to DVD is Kinoautomat: One Man and His House (Kinoautomat: Člověk a jeho dům), from 1967. It was the first interactive film, where people could vote on what would happen next. The DVD, with an option for English audio, and posters for it are available at the store.