The Need for “Speed”
September 20, 2010
Coming attraction slides held a relatively unique position in realm of motion picture advertising. Along with trailers, slides are the only advertising medium displayed exclusively to audiences - seated patrons in the auditorium who had already purchased a ticket. Their purpose was not to immediately lure customers into the cinema such was generally the case with posters, handbills, lobby displays, newspaper advertising, etc. Instead, slides and trailers were designed to entice cinema patrons to return again, at a later date, in expectation that the advertised program would be as exciting and wonderful as promised.
Unlike film trailers, which have the advantage of using motion pictures to display scenes from the film to reveal plot plot and genre, and animated text and graphics to pique curiosity and generate interest; slides were required to do the same within the confines of a single static image. What trailers attempted to accomplish in 15-60 seconds of moving pictures (and after after 1927, sound motion pictures), slides were required to do so within the context of a single silent image.
Slide designers often used collage in order to incorporate as many different elements as possible, thereby appealing to the broadest possible range of interests. One of my favorite examples in this respect is the slide for the Pathé serial Speed (1922). The graphics for this 15-episode serial promise a cornucopia of excitement featuring an action hero paired with an apparently hazard-prone heroine in (frequent) need of rescue. The design for the slide revolves around the the central graphic of the female rescue, surrounded by a constellation of perilous scenarios: an airplane, a speeding locomotive, a bucking bronco, a rescue at sea, tight rope walking, a high dive, a horse racing an automobile, a derailing caboose, and (of course) alligator wrestling.
If it's excitement you want, don't miss Speed!
New episodes play in this theatre every Wednesday evening.