Are you tired of seeing great motion pictures chopped, cropped, fuzzy, small and square? Sick of having your concentration broken by commercials, the phone ringing, the children fighting or the tasteless fat-free microwave popcorn spilling all over the living-room carpet? And even if you made it to the movies, are you frustrated by the tiny screen, the scratched prints and the frequent breakdowns? Then now is your opportunity not only to relive the past, but to help ensure that movies at their shimmering best remain a part of the present. And if that is not enough, you can have a great time too.
Welcome to The Library of Congress Film Preservation Tour presented by American Movie Classics featuring films from the National Film Registry. As of November, 2000, the Tour has visited 40 states and Puerto Rico and is well on its way to fulfilling its goal of making a stop in every state and the District of Columbia. The Tour brings a diverse range of noteworthy American movies, all drawn from the National Film Registry, to big screens all across the country. Its aim is twofold: to celebrate more than a century of American movie making, and to promote grass roots awareness of the need to preserve our peerless motion picture heritage. With receptions and screenings attended by movie actors, cinematographers, directors and you, the Tour brings together members of the film community and the American public to revel in the silver screen and learn about ways to preserve this legacy in its full glory.
Each Tour venue designs its particular program from the approximately forty available Registry titles. Such films range from Hollywood legend Harold Lloyd's silent classic Safety Last, to film noir Out of The Past and Raging Bull to avant-garde films and newsreels like The March of Time: Inside Nazi Germany –1938 to counter-culture classic Easy Rider. Studios and producers have provided new prints for the Tour, and have waived screening fees. The preservation work of various archives is represented. The UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Museum of Modern Art Department of Film and Video, Anthology Film Archives, the National Archives and Records Administration, George Eastman House and, of course, the LC are some of the under-sung heros of American film who are ensuring that Americans will always be able to enjoy the universally appealing art form that personifies the last century of the second millennium.
Where possible we try to complement the regular Tour schedule with specially created regional film programs. This assists the Tour in relaying its message that film preservation is not only an issue affecting Hollywood but that the movies in greatest danger are the so-called "orphan" films that are without copyright holders to protect them. These include films in the public domain and important footage that does not have wide enough appeal to ensure its preservation, despite its significance. Our stop in Columbia, South Carolina preceded the University's ‘Orphan Film Symposium' and included rarely seen footage of South Carolina ethnographic films from the Library's Margaret Mead Collection. The people of Columbia were also treated to the first ever screening of the restored ‘Topaz', the riveting home movie footage secretly shot in a Japanese American internment camp in World War ll. The film was introduced by Karen Ishizuka, Senior Curator at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles who serves on the National Film Preservation Board. Students at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque attended a seminar and question and answer session with Academy Award winners Greg Nava and Anna Thomas (El Norte) In Dell Rapids, South Dakota we screened locally collected film of Sioux Falls in 1938. We also had the uniquely thrilling experience of watching Gertie the Dinosaur and The Great Train Robbery from a 1908 hand cranked projector with live piano accompaniment We were certainly not the first to sit upstairs at the Dell Rapids Opera House slurping malts bought at the soda fountain downstairs; and not the last, judging by the energy and commitment of the Sioux Falls Film Society. In Bucksport, Maine, we enjoyed an evening of rare footage that Northeast Historic Film has preserved in its archive. We also saw a screening of Harlan County, USA followed by a workshop led by Mary Lampson, one of the editors of this documentary feature film.
Sometimes the Tour is faced with seemingly insurmountable problems that melt away with the hard work and enthusiasm of local people. In Charleston, West Virginia the only restored theater left in town is the Capitol Center that now belongs to West Virginia State College and is imaginatively used in a variety of ways but which, until recently, did not include the use of their carbon arc reel to reel 35mm projectors. In fact they had not been used in twenty years! They are running now, having started a new life with the Film Preservation Tour.
From 1995 to 1998, the Tour was made possible by grants from the James Madison Council, the Library's private sector advisory group, and The Film Foundation, a group of leading film directors committed to film preservation, with additional support from Turner Classic Movies. As of 1999 we are fully funded to go to all the remaining states and the District of Columbia, thanks to a generous grant from American Movie Classics. AMC is the premier 24-hour movie network also featuring award-winning original productions about the world of American film. With one of the finest, most comprehensive libraries of classic films from the 1930s through the 1980s and a diverse blend of original series, documentaries and interstitials, the service offers in-depth information on timeless and contemporary Hollywood classics. American Movie Classics is already well known for its commitment to film preservation and for raising funds for the nation's leading film archives through its annual Preservation Festival.
The Tour has gained steady momentum since its opening in Madison, Wisconsin in October 1995. We continue to unashamedly entertain more and more Americans with moving pictures of their past, and in so doing to educate them about the need to preserve this irreplaceable heritage. As the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James H. Billington, notes, "Anything as dynamic as motion pictures does not really exist when simply stored in cans on the shelves of an archive. They come alive only when projected before an audience on a large screen in a darkened theater as envisioned by their creators."
Rebecca FitzSimmons, NFR Tour Coordinator
Note: The tour ended in 2002. For additional information, contact:Steve Leggett, Library of Congress
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