National Screen Service
) was a company which controlled the distribution of theatrical advertising materials in the United States
from approximately 1940 through the 1980s.
NSS was formed in 1920 to produce and distribute movie trailers on behalf of movie studios. As time went on, NSS gradually took over production and distribution of other forms of movie advertising, until in the 1940s, it signed exclusive contracts with all the major movie studios to produce and distribute posters and other paper advertising materials.
During the 1980s, as the design of movie theaters changed from small, individual screens to large multiplexes, the amount of advertising space available for a given movie dropped; as a result, the wide variety of movie poster sizes extant until that time was consolidated down to just the "one-sheet" size. As this greatly reduced the need for a separate organization to control poster distribution, movie studios took back those responsibilities, and NSS shrank.
NSS was eventually bought out by Technicolor, Inc. in September 2000.
As part of its efforts, NSS created and issued "NSS Numbers", allowing NSS to more easily track its inventory of movie advertising material. NSS numbers consisted of from two to four components: a two-digit number representing the year of release, possibly a slash, then a one-to-four digit number designating the release order of the movie in that particular year. If the numbers are preceded by the letter "R", then the poster is from a re-release of the film. One good example is Star Wars
; its original release number is "77/21", meaning it was released in the year 1977 and was the 21st movie released that year.
typically had the number in two places: stamped on the back by NSS, and printed in the lower-right corner.
With the demise of National Screen Service in late 2000, movies no longer receive NSS numbers.