Coming Attraction Slides the forerunners of Today’s Trailers

Coming Attraction slides. For those who are unfamiliar with these oddities… they are as varied as the films themselves. Not to unlike 35mm photo slides, these were larger, basically measuring 3 1/4 inches high x 4 inches long. The earliest ones from about c1912 were two plates glass taped together. The bottom plate contained the image, which most of the time, was hand colored. The top glass plate protected the image. These were taped together along the edges with black photographers tape. Between the two plates was a paper frame, usually with the name and address of the slide manufacturer.


These slides, which are a forerunner of what we know today as Coming Attraction trailers, are a type of magic lantern slide, the original ones which date from 1644. The original slides were hand-painted images and later transfers (like decals) mass produced for the lecture slides.


The coming attraction slides have a narrow space at the bottom, for the projectionist or theatre manager to write on with India Ink… stating the date or day the film was coming to the local theatre. These slides were shipped by the slide manufacturers, but more often by the studio’s distribution department (film exchanges) to the individual cinemas that would eventually play the films.


Due their fragility, most movie theatres did not return the slides. And after a run of the film they were destroyed. Some enterprising managers would reuse the slides and scratch out the title of the film then re-write the new film title for the star. This would have been done in smaller venues who could not afford to purchase slides each time a star and/or film came out.


Later slides were reduced to a single smaller glass plate that was inserted into a cardboard framed border, like the more common 35mm slide, but the size was still 3 1/4 inches x 4 inches.


Some earlier slides only had a studio and title. As films progressed so did the artwork and variety of images on the slides. Some, like title lobby cards held the image of credits… others had a main scene with many smaller ones, while others showcased the star. Sometimes star slides had the performer’s film title with it. Other times they would just show a profile photo of the star and their name.


Slides continued to be used into the late 1950s early 1960s, but for the most part were replaced by trailers in 1928, as film was fading from Silent to Sound! The photos on the slides were stagnant and stationary. Trailers allowed the audience to get involved with the action.


If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me via this Lounge, or several others. I have been studying and collecting slides for over 25 years and have a large collection. Enjoy and See You Soon, at the Movies!


Cinematically yours,


Kevin John Charbeneau


3 thoughts on “Coming Attraction Slides the forerunners of Today’s Trailers

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