In the Beginning
July 21, 2010
According to Lisa Kernan in her book Coming Attractions: Reading American Movie Trailers:
"The precursors to trailers were magic lantern slides resembling posters, each film identified with titles and images of its stars of significant elements of its iconography. These were projected between features much like today's slides of local restaurant advertising and movie trivia quizzes."
Kernan goes on to quote Lou Harris, head of Paramount's trailer division in the 1960s as attributing the first trailer to be one shown in 1912 at Rye Beach, New York.
While Kernan's chronology places lantern slide advertising prior to the development of movie trailers, I have been unable to locate any examples of coming attraction slides prior to 1913. Of course lantern slide projections were a regular aspect of film programming from the very beginning (sing-alongs, entertainment, local advertising, etc.) but the use of slides to advertise upcoming film programs seems by all evidence to begin in 1913.
Were coming attraction slides used prior to 1913? The search for evidence continues...