13. Lantern Venues
Illustrated Songs Fill Nickelodeons
Illustrated Songs were another major type of magic lantern show, designed for a particular kind of venue, the nickelodeons—small movie theaters. A large (20 x 28”) color poster promotes both moving pictures and the illustrated songs, which were often as popular as the movies themselves. The songs were sung (or “illustrated”) while glass slides were being projected between the short films of the time. The slides were usually photographic montages, presented in dramatic color—a striking difference from the black and white, or very limited color of the early movies.
This sheet music for “I’m glad I Met You, Mary” shows the slides that accompanied the song. Hear (and see!) an illustrated song here.
The audiences for these performances were huge because there were thousands of nickelodeons. Lantern slides were created for over 4,000 illustrated songs. A guestimate of the cumulative national audience? Perhaps as large as a billion.Archival Notes