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Program National Film Preservation Board

Voluntary Guidelines for Joint Studio-Archive Restoration Projects

Supporting Document C: Public-Private Cooperation Task Force

(published August 1994)

Increasingly studios and public archives are recognizing the value of working together to preserve American films. An initiative of special promise is the joint studio-archive restoration project, pioneered by Sony Pictures Entertainment with the International Museum of Photography and Film at George Eastman House, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive. In this type of partnership, a studio and archive join forces to produce high-quality preservation materials of major studio-owned titles. Such projects differ from standard preservation in that they usually entail extensive research, planning, and specialized laboratory work to restore films to their original state. The Film Foundation encourages these arrangements, finding that they further the studios' proprietary interests, the archives' cultural mission, and the public's study and enjoyment.

Here is how such voluntary arrangements typically work. The studio contributes funding for laboratory costs; the archive contributes the time and skills of its preservation staff. The studio provides access to its materials; the archive evaluates these elements and searches for additional source materials in noncommercial custody. Both partners work together to prioritize titles for restoration and to carry out the process.

Each partner gains from the collaboration. The studio obtains: (1) detailed and confidential written evaluations on the quality and condition of existing film elements, (2) information on relevant existing materials, and (3) new high-quality preprint elements of key titles. The archive acquires (1) preprint of the same works for safekeeping for future generations, (2) prints for use in research and public programs, and (3) a role in projects having a broad popular impact. Both profit from building a wider circle of working relationships and the cross-fertilization of ideas and techniques.

It is important to note that archives are as eager as studios to see preserved films re-enter the marketplace and become available to the public through theatrical exhibition and ancillary distribution. Significant American motion pictures restored through public-private ventures include The Guns of Navarone (1961), On the Waterfront (1954), I've Always Loved You (1946), Phantom of the Opera (1943), His Girl Friday (1940), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Holiday (1938), The Plainsman (1936), Shanghai Express (1932), early sound shorts by the Vitaphone Company (1927-29), Noah's Ark (1929), and Tess of the Storm Country (1914). In addition the studios and archives have collaborated in promoting screenings of studio-preserved titles such as The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Gone with the Wind (1939), and The Wizard of Oz (1939), and thus furthering public interest in preservation and increasing the audience for restored films.

Why Prepare Voluntary Guidelines?

The Public-Private Cooperation Task Force, appointed by the Librarian of Congress to advise on the national film preservation plan, has developed the following voluntary guidelines to assist interested studios and archives in developing constructive partnerships. The guidelines draw upon task force members' experiences over the past decade in joint restoration ventures and summarize key features contributing to successful efforts. The guidelines suggest an informal framework for designing mutually beneficial collaborations and can be applied to single projects or ongoing programs.

Benefits of Cooperative Restoration Projects

By pooling resources and expertise to preserve major studio-owned titles, a studio and a public archive can produce high-quality preservation materials, adding to a film's long-term commercial value and supporting the role of archives in safeguarding America's film heritage.

The studio specifically:

  • Obtains advice in determining which films are of considerable cultural interest to the American film-viewing public and worth the investment of a full-scale restoration.
  • Develops a clear framework for preservation planning and prioritization.
  • Obtains detailed research on key titles and evaluations of the preservation quality of film materials in its library.
  • Ensures that the best-available materials--from both commercial and public collections--are used in the restoration process.
  • Creates high-quality preprint materials for studio use as well as additional preservation materials safeguarded in public archives that can be consulted by the studio should the need arise.
  • Realizes commercial benefits from the exploitation of newly restored titles in exhibition and ancillary markets.
The archive specifically:
  • Obtains high-quality preprint materials to safeguard the title for future generations.
  • Obtains high-quality film prints for use in research and in public programs.
  • Contributes to projects having a broad popular impact, and thus promotes the archives' film preservation work and cultural mission.
Both partners:
  • Develop a wider circle of working relationships and trade ideas and preservation techniques.

Key Features of Successful Projects

  • A. The studio and archive would jointly select titles for preservation evaluation. The studio, in consultation and agreement with the archive, would select and prioritize titles from its library for the purpose of determining their preservation needs. Prime candidates for early inclusion would be titles that the studio already suspects require restoration.
  • B. The archive would evaluate the preservation needs of each title. The archive would inspect and evaluate the preservation status of each selected title. This process would involve two steps:
    • 1. Physical inspection. The archive would inspect the studio's existing preservation elements and other appropriate materials to determine their quality (picture and sound) and condition (scratches, tears, splices, signs of deterioration, etc.). Many titles may be found to be adequately protected and need no further work. Others, however, may require upgrading or even restoration to insure proper preservation.
    • 2. Written report. The archive would prepare and submit to the studio a confidential written report on each title inspected. The report would include:
      • Evaluation information on the picture and sound quality and physical condition.
      • Recommendation on whether new preprint materials should be prepared. If new materials are recommended, the report also would include: (a) a description of the improvements that could be obtained and (b) a budget estimating the cost of the project.
  • C. The studio would authorize preservation work. The studio would approve or reject each recommended project on a title-by-title basis. No further work--beyond inspection and evaluation--would begin without studio authorization.
  • D. The studio and archive would collaborate on the preparation of materials and the supervision of laboratory work. Once a project is approved, studio and archive personnel would coordinate the restoration effort. Typically, this work would include: determining which elements to use in the restoration process; assembling, repairing, and preparing the footage for printing; coordinating laboratory processing; and doing quality control. In some cases, the archive holds in its own collection film materials that are useful in the preservation process. The archive may borrow additional materials from other public archives, in the United States and abroad, or from private sources. The laboratories used for each project would be jointly selected by the studio and the archive.
  • E. The studio and archive would each receive new preprint and print materials at the time of preservation. For each upgraded or restored title, the studio would order the preprint and print materials needed for its own operations. In addition, the archive would receive 35mm preprint elements (picture and sound) and an answer print for permanent addition to its preservation collection. The archive and studio would jointly determine the types of elements to be produced for the archive. The studio would be guaranteed limited access to the archive's materials, as determined by mutual agreement.

    The archive also would receive a 35mm viewing print for in-house screening and loan to other cultural institutions (museums, universities, festivals, archives, etc.). All loans would be subject to prior written approval by the studio.

  • F. The studio would underwrite the cost of all laboratory work and contribute to the cost of the archive's services. Financial arrangements would vary from program to program and depend on the particular features of the project and internal factors unique to each studio and archive. Typically, the studio would cover the costs for laboratory services on those titles approved for upgrade or restoration, and contribute to the archive's direct costs for inspection, evaluation and restoration services.

    The studio would control the annual cost of the program by the number of titles selected and the types of elements prepared. These costs would be estimated in the budgets prepared by the archive for each title prior to studio approval of restoration work.

  • G. The studio and archive representatives would meet on a regular basis to monitor the work and share preservation information. This might involve one-on-one meetings between the studio and archive, or, should the studio prefer, larger sessions in which the studio meets with several public archive partners to share information on joint projects and preservation issues.

Drafted by the Public-Private Cooperation Task Force: Mary Lea Bandy (Museum of Modern Art), Raffaele Donato (The Film Foundation), Douglas Gomery (University of Maryland), William Humphrey (Sony Pictures Entertainment), Scott Martin (Paramount Pictures), Brian O'Doherty (National Endowment for the Arts), Edward Richmond (UCLA Film and Television Archive).