A Study of the Current State of American Film Preservation: Volume 1
Motion pictures of all types are deteriorating faster than archives can preserve them, according to a comprehensive study released on June 25, 1993 by the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington.
Note: This is an "HTML" version of volume 1 of Film Preservation 1993 originally published in June 1993. This version contains most of the text and footnotes but no charts, or tables from the report. Limited complimentary written copies of volume 1 can be obtained from [email protected].
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Film preservation 1993 : a study of the current state of American film preservation : report of the Librarian of Congress. p. cm. "This report was written by Annette Melville and Scott Simmon under contract with the Library of Congress. Their independent research was conducted between December 1992 and June 1993"--Pref. material.
"June 1993." ISBN 0-8444-0803-4 ------ Copy 3. Z663.36 .F55 1993 1. Motion picture film--preservation and storage--United States.
I. Melville, Annette. II. Simmon, Scott. III. National Film Preservation Board (U.S.) TR886.3.F53 1993 778.5'0973--dc20 93-21925 CIP
Table of Contents
- Scope of the Study
- What is "Preservation"?
- Technical Background
- Film Bases
- Emulsions and Color Fading
- Technology and the Future
- Film Preservation in Practice
- Studios with Large Film Libraries
- Independent Producers and Distributors
- Stock Footage Libraries
- Large Public Archives
- Specialist Archives
- Public Institutions with Small Film Collections
- Foreign Archives
- Federal Funding of Film Preservation
- Preservation Copying and the Copyright Law
- Direct Support of Preservation Copying
- AFI-NEA Film Preservation Grants
- The Library of Congress and the National Archives Programs
- The Role of Commercial Laboratories
- Support of Preservation-Related Activities
- Foundations Funding Film Preservation
- Public Access
- Who Benefits from Publicly Funded Film Preservation?
- Redefining Preservation
- Toward a National Program
List of Figures
- Survival Rates of American Silent Feature Films (PDF, 115KB)
- Effect of Temperature and Humidity on Acetate Film: When Will Vinegar Syndrome Begin Under Varying Storage Conditions? (PDF, 151KB)
- Effect of Temperature on Color Fading (Holding Relative Humidity at 40%) (PDF, 57.4KB)
- Film Libraries of Studio Respondents (PDF, 64.7KB)
- Collection and Access Programs of Public Archive Respondents (PDF, 356KB)
- AFI-NEA Film Preservation Grant Distribution, 1979-92 (PDF, 161KB)
- What Types of Films Are Preserved with AFI-NEA Grants? (PDF, 72.4KB)
- AFI-NEA and LC Funding for Film Preservation Copying, 1979-92 (PDF, 178KB)
- Cost of Preserving a Black-and-White Silent Feature, 1980-92 (PDF, 126KB)
- Privately Controlled Nitrate Preprint at Public Archives: How Much Would It Cost in 1993 To Store This Material Commercially? (PDF, 93.4KB)
- American Feature Films (1919-28) in U.S. and Foreign Archives (PDF, 144KB)
This report could not have been completed without the research of Steven Leggett, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress.
The writers of this report--Annette Melville and Scott Simmon--would like to thank those submitting statements or participating in the hearings. We would particularly like to single out the following for their open discussion of preservation issues and of their organizations in interviews by phone or in person:
What are we doing to save America's film heritage for future generations? The following study, mandated by the National Film Preservation Act of 1992, describes the current state of preservation in the U.S. film industry and in public and nonprofit archives. Information was gathered at hearings in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., (transcribed in Volumes 2 and 3) and through written comments from the field (Volume 4), as well as through interviews and published documents. The first of two submissions to Congress by the Librarian of Congress, this study lays the framework for a national film preservation program.
Film is a fragile medium, and motion pictures of all types are deteriorating faster than archives can preserve them. Preservation practices slow film's inevitable decay by environmentally controlled storage and by copying endangered works onto more durable film stock. Today's film preservation crisis is not merely the result of substantially decreased public funding but also arises from a growth in the types of films now valued and requiring preservation. Newsreels, documentaries, avant-garde works, anthropological and regional films, advertising shorts, and even some home movies (especially of ethnic groups invisible in the mainstream media) are now seen as important records of America's social memory.
Fueling the crisis is the deterioration of films from the last 40 years, films previously thought not-at-risk. Preservation efforts were once directed solely at copying nitrate- base film, an older, unstable film stock. "safety film" replaced nitrate in the early 1950s, and now preservationists must deal with recently discovered problems of this less flammable substitute--the fading of color film and "vinegar syndrome", an irreversible film base decay--in addition to the still-pressing task of nitrate conversion. Research is increasingly demonstrating the critical role of low humidity and low temperature storage in extending film life. As technical expertise grows, better copies are being made from older film materials. Film preservation is increasingly perceived as an ongoing activity, not a one-time copying "fix". These factors point to the need to re-think the current approach.
Film preservation in practice. While many types of organizations have motion pictures of cultural interest, preservation efforts vary greatly with funding and commercial rights. Studios with large film libraries, once little interested in "last-year's pictures," now earn less revenue from a film's theatrical release than from later ancillary distribution by cable, network, and home video. Although industry practices vary, most studios are now investing in sophisticated storage facilities and restoring older features for which they own commercial rights. Independent producers and distributors, owners of films financed outside the large studios, generally lack the resources and organizational continuity to mount such expensive "asset protection" programs. The works of avant- garde and documentary filmmakers are among those most at risk.
In the public and nonprofit sectors, the defining problem for film preservation is funding. For the largest archives, the priority has long been the duplication of nitrate film. For more specialized archives--smaller archives that collect films relating to a specific region, subject or ethnic group--the first preservation task has been to bring endangered film into archival custody.
Fearing legal action, foreign archives, like U.S. collectors, have been reluctant to reveal their holdings of American films. A large number of "lost" American films of the 1910s and 1920s survive abroad in unique prints.
Federal programs. Federal film preservation funding has supported the copying of deteriorating film in tax-exempt institutions. The major conduit has been the grant program funded through the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute. Between 1979 and 1992, 37 institutions received a total of $5.5 million in matching federal grants, stimulating at least double that dollar amount in laboratory copying. This AFI-NEA program provides a limited safety net for films unlikely to receive preservation by commercial interests--particularly silent films, older independent features, ethnic films, dance documentation, and avant-garde works. Federal funds also support the preservation programs of the National Archives and the Library of Congress.
Through critically important, these programs merely chip away at the film preservation crisis. When adjusted for inflation, federal funding for the AFI-NEA and Library of Congress programs has fallen to half its 1980 level. The diminished funding is more strikingly seen in terms of the amount of laboratory work federal dollars can support. In 1980 the AFI-NEA grants of $514,215 (not counting matching funds) could support the preservation copying of the equivalent of 159 black-and-white silent features; in 1992 the AFI-NEA awards of $355,600 could fund copying for fewer than 26.
Other federal programs support preservation-related activities on a project-by-project basis, although none specifically addresses the need for improving storage conditions. Certain types of films--most documentaries and newsreels, for example--fall between the cracks of existing programs. Some foundations have become preservation funders, though very few support projects in this area.
Access. Preservation is incomplete without public access to the preserved film. For public archives, access must be balanced against the need for physical preservation and the rights of the copyright owners. Archives share films with the public through screening programs, museum exhibitions, educational distribution, and on-site study. Materials unrestricted by copyright and donor agreements can be made more widely available through sale or licensing. Film preservation also brings benefits to the copyright holders. Public archives store early generation nitrate film for many studios (generally at no expense to the donors), provide technical preservation assistance, and locate missing film materials in foreign archives.
How can we measure success in film preservation? Standard quantitative measures-- feet of nitrate film copied and safety film produced--presume that the preservation battle centers exclusively on nitrate film and that the earliest nitrate-to-safety conversions are still acceptable by today's standards. Better indicators of success are the increased number of institutions with archival programs, the change in industry attitude toward the value of film libraries, the growth in public-private partnership projects, the shift from quantity measurement to quality standards in laboratory work, the repatriation of "lost" American films, and the growing recognition of importance of film types beyond the Hollywood fiction feature.
Toward a national program. This report recommends several topics to be explored and integrated into a national program, to be developed over the next twelve months:
The Librarian of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board invite written suggestions for the program as well as comments on the study. Responses received by September 30, 1993, will be folded into the next stage of the planning process.
1. Scope of the Study
A hundred years after the birth of motion pictures in the United States, this report asks: What are we doing to save America's film heritage for future generations? Film Preservation 1993 is a snapshot of film preservation as it is practiced today in the U.S. film industry and in public and nonprofit organizations. Mandated by the National Film Preservation Act of 1992,1 it is the first of two submissions to Congress by the Librarian of Congress and his advisory panel, the National Film Preservation Board. By describing the current state of film preservation, this report lays the framework for a planning document, which will present to Congress a national strategy for coordinating film preservation, developed in consultation with archivists, copyright holders, educators and others concerned with the survival and accessibility of American film.
This report has modest parameters. It describes only the current state of preservation and its problems, not future solutions (which is the goal of the Librarian's second Congressional submission). It is an outline of key issues, rather than a history of American film preservation, and chronicles the past only to the extent that comparisons to former practices, assumptions, and funding help illuminate the contemporary situation. Although video and film are increasingly interdependent, this report adheres to the legal directive of the National Film Preservation Act of 1992 and confines itself to preservation issues relating to film, not to television or video. It defines film narrowly as moving images captured on motion picture stock and intended for exhibition or documentation, not broadcast. (There are indeed serious preservation problems confronting America's television materials, and it is hoped that these might be the subject of another fact-finding effort.)
Information was gathered through interviews and library research, as well as through the public testimony and written statements--from over 100 organizations and individuals-- that form the core of this four-volume study. In a sense, the report in Volume 1 serves as a preface to those public comments. Transcripts of the two National Film Preservation Board public hearings, held in Los Angeles on February 12, 1993, and in Washington, D.C., on February 26, are reproduced in their entirety in Volumes 2 and 3. All written statements received before April 1, 1993 are reprinted in Volume 4. (The written statements include responses from those unable to testify in person as well as additional comments from participants in the hearings.)
Now that the movies have reached their centennial, the idea that they deserve saving requires little defense. Films are not simply the province of "buffs" or exercises in nostalgia, but this century's most vital social memory and its most distinctive art form-- one at which the United States has excelled.
For all the evident values of film, one fact is clear: The battle for their preservation is being lost, despite certain inspiring efforts and hopeful signs. There are ways to quantify this failure, particularly in terms of public funding and of uncopied, decaying nitrate-base footage. But put most simply, the problem is this: Films of all types are deteriorating faster than archives can preserve them.
Film is a fragile medium, generally intended for a brief commercial life. Preservation tries to slow film's inevitable decay by controlling storage conditions and by copying endangered works onto more durable film stock. The director Peter Bogdanovich recalls writing in 1960 an article entitled "Who Cares?" about the importance of film preservation and having its title ironically borne out by being unable to get it published.(2) Because such articles and published expressions of concern are more common now,3 one might presume that the problems are well in hand. If, instead, film survival is at a crisis point, it is because three critical changes--conceptual, technical, and financial--have conspired.
That the United States is fighting a losing battle to save its film heritage is clearest from a sobering, often-noted historical fact. Current efforts of preservationists begin from the recognition that a great percentage of American film has already been irretrievably lost-- intentionally thrown away or allowed to deteriorate.
Exactly how much of America's film production has already been lost remains difficult to say. The most familiar statistic, which has attained its authority primarily through repetition, is that we have lost 50% of all titles produced before 1950.6 This estimate may not be inaccurate so long as one qualifies it in three ways. First, it would apply only to full-length fiction films. Anecdotal evidence suggests that survival rates for other film types, even major studio newsreels and shorts, are lower. Second, among those studio features, there is a sharp break in survival rates at 1929, the year that sound film became the industry standard. Features of the 1930s have been recently documented to survive at a rate of no less than 80%, probably closer to 90%.7 However, fewer than 20% of the features of the 1920s survive in complete form; for features of the 1910s, the survival rate falls to slightly above 10% (and those in copies generally made from projection prints, not negatives, which are almost entirely lost). Figure 1 details approximate survival rates for American silent features. Third and last, the familiarity of that 50%-before-1950 statistic also implies, by omission, that there are few preservation problems with films produced after that year--something which is not the case, as will be discussed.
Figure 1: Survival Rates of American Silent Feature Films (PDF, 115KB)8 (Based on working lists of holdings in U.S. and foreign archives)
There is in the testimony and submissions that follow a general recognition among the industry and public/nonprofit sector respondents of the urgency of these preservation problems. There is universal agreement that more must be done in the few remaining years of this century if the next generation is not to look back on current efforts as little more than a tragic failure.
Where there is less agreement is in the balance of priorities and responsibilities. Disagreements arise particularly over films which are publicly experienced but privately owned. If there is a single division that separates most of the preservation issues discussed in this report, it is between two categories of films: those that have evident market value and owners able to exploit that value; and the other films, often labeled "orphans," that lack either clear copyright holders or commercial potential to pay for their continued preservation. In practice, the former are primarily features from major Hollywood studios; the latter--numerically the majority--include newsreels and documentaries, avant-garde and independent productions, silent films where copyright has expired, even certain Hollywood sound films from now defunct studios. For these films the urgency may be greatest.
3. What Is "Preservation"?
Films are ephemeral and fragile products. For the technical reasons outlined in the next section, even the most durable of films can become unusable in less than a single human lifespan, although some types have proven to deteriorate more rapidly and spectacularly than others. While preservation can be thought of as any effort to keep a film in a viewable form, most archivists consider a film preserved only when it is both (1) viewable in its original format with its full visual and aural9 values retained, and (2) protected for the future by "preprint" material10 through which subsequent viewing copies can be created.
In practice and in casual language, preservation has usually been synonymous with duplication. The archival rallying slogan for the last two decades has been "Nitrate Won't Wait," and the primary preservation task--still far from accomplished--has been to copy unstable, nitrate-base film without significant loss of quality onto more durable "safety" stock. For a variety of reasons, this definition of preservation is being rethought and broadened to include the costly issue of storage conditions, as well as the apparently contradictory issue of public access. Preservation is increasingly being defined less as a one-time "fix" (measurable in footage copied) than as an ongoing process.11
Related terms needs to be distinguished from preservation. "Restoration" goes beyond the physical copying of surviving material into reconstruction of the most authentic version of a film. Ideally, this requires comparison of all surviving material on a given title, consultation of printed records of the production and exhibition history, and then decisions regarding the film's "original" state.12 Also distinguishable from preservation is "conservation," which requires no physical copying, only the decision to treat film material with greater care because of its perceived use as a future preservation source. Typically, a print which has been regarded as an access or "reference" copy becomes a conservation copy when it is suspected to be the best surviving material on that title.13
In the widest sense, preservation is the assurance that a film will continue to exist in something close to its original form. Thus, to the extent that preservation is a commitment made to the future, it has further complexities. The issue has often been put this way: Can a film be considered "preserved" if it is physically protected but held only under private ownership? That question has surfaced in a number of widely publicized contexts, including the "colorization" controversy of the late 1980s14 and the concerns in 1989 and 1990 over foreign purchases of American studio film libraries.15 Recently, it has been reasonable for studios to suggest that films to which they hold copyright are their own preservation responsibility and that public archives might direct their resources elsewhere.16 It has also been reasonable for public archives to point to the studios' poor record of saving their films, alongside a commercial history of "lowest-bid" preservation quality.17 However, several new public-private partnerships suggest that these positions are not so intransigent or contradictory as they once seemed.
In what sense preservation is now also understood as a trust to the present as well as to the future is a question taken up in Section 8, "Public Access."
4. Technical Background
A few technical notes may be useful before turning to current preservation practices. Some of these facts relate to longstanding preservation problems; others have taken on new prominence.
Physically, all motion picture film consists of two primary layers with a binder to hold them together: emulsions (which carry the image) and a transparent support base. Film preservation is necessary because of the very nature of these materials: emulsions fade, the binder breaks down, and the plastics of the support base decompose.
A. Film Bases.
Historically, motion-picture bases have been of three main types: (1) cellulose nitrate (usually called simply nitrate), in commercial use through the early 1950s; (2) cellulose acetate (usually called acetate), available for some uses since the 1910s but widely employed only after 1950;18 and (3) polyester, available since the mid- 1950s but still in only scattered use. Both acetate and polyester are sometimes called "safety" film, in distinction from nitrate.
Nitrate base had certain excellent qualities, but its chemical composition destabilizes over time. As it ages it has a tendency to shrink, to give off gasses that destroy the emulsion, and to become highly flammable at relatively low temperatures. Once a nitrate fire begins, it is nearly impossible to extinguish, since in burning it creates its own oxygen. It was a rash of fires in the late 1940s that led to the industry's conversion to triacetate safety film. More recently, large nitrate fires have occurred in the United States (notably at vaults of the National Archives in 1977 and 1978 and at the George Eastman House in 1978) and in foreign archives (most disastrously at Mexico's Cineteca Nacional in 1982, and at a warehouse for the Cinémathèque Française outside Paris in 1980).
The hazards of nitrate should not be minimized but it is also possible to exaggerate them. Under the right conditions, nitrate film can have a long useful life, as demonstrated by surviving 90-year-old examples, such as an original negative for The Great Train Robbery (1903).19 In some stages of decomposition, nitrate can ignite spontaneously, though not so easily as is sometimes feared.20
For many years nitrate was considered discardable after being copied onto safety stock, but increasingly archives are rethinking this policy. The chief reason for retaining usable nitrate is that it is closer to the original, often carrying a shimmering visual beauty lost in even the best new copies, whose emulsions are incapable of reproducing nitrate film's tonal qualities. The nitrate retained is then available for reuse as duplication technology improves, as well as for color-tinting records and for special public screenings.21 It is also increasingly expensive to dispose of nitrate in a way that meets environmental and health standards.22
Acetate-based film solved the fire hazard and was long considered an ideal preservation material. Kept properly stored, it may still be that. But the discovery in the 1980s of what is popularly called "vinegar syndrome," from the acetic acid smell given off when acetate base begins to decay, is currently giving film preservationists serious pause. There is increasing scientific evidence that, kept under identical conditions, acetate film decays at approximately the same rate as nitrate, though with nothing of nitrate's volatility. This is not illogical: Both are cellulosic plastics and apparently deteriorate at similar speed. The later stages of acetate decay do not destroy emulsions in the same way as does nitrate but nevertheless renders the film unusable.
One basic archival principle is that preservation is not accomplished unless the new medium has a considerably longer life than the original from which it is copied. On the surface, continued copying onto acetate base would seem to violate that principle. But there are two reasons to qualify such a conclusion: First, the original nitrate print is older and usually well into its decomposition cycle; and, second, the new acetate print can be given proper storage right from the start. Thus vinegar syndrome has not been detected in films duplicated under archival conditions and put into ideal storage immediately. The implications of vinegar syndrome in acetate have not yet been fully assimilated into preservation practice, but scientific research into its causes has also been accompanied by compelling evidence that it can be delayed by proper storage.23
Polyester base seems to promise a significantly longer lifespan than acetate, although archivists have been reluctant to embrace it. Only after the evidence of vinegar syndrome in acetate was there much renewed consideration of polyester, especially because, at least in its early manufacture, it showed problems with the binder separating from the emulsion, leading to loss of the image. It also was long unavailable in the 35mm intermediate stocks needed for preprint copies.24 Among the largest public archives, only the George Eastman House and the National Archives have made limited nitrate conversion onto polyester stocks. Institutions dealing primarily in 16mm have had wider access to polyester; the New York Public Library's Donnell Media Center has ordered all its film copies on polyester since 1980.
B. Emulsions and Color Fading.
One other current preservation concern rivals that of uncopied nitrate in significance: the fading of the color dyes in "dye-coupler" films-- better known as "Eastmancolor"--which won over the industry in the early 1950s. It is the least quantifiable, least easily solvable, and probably most expensive of current preservation problems. Among theatrical prints and home movies of the 1950s through the 1970s, the problem is often painfully obvious in color images that have turned a low-contrast brownish pink. The technical irony is that earlier color prints--in the "Technicolor" process--have essentially retained their original hues, though of course those before 1950 are on unstable nitrate base. This problem with color emulsions parallels that facing libraries in the preservation of twentieth-century books on acetic paper, which deteriorates much more rapidly than older papers. In both cases new technology created a less expensive product--and a nightmare for the future.
The Technicolor system differed from Eastmancolor at both the negative and the print stages. To produce its negatives, the bulky "three-strip" Technicolor camera (in use from 1933 through the early 1950s) filtered the visible light spectrum to capture the blue, red, and green portions on three separate black-and-white negatives, not subject to fading because they involved no color dyes. (A two-strip Technicolor system, in use from 1922 to 1933, functioned similarly but caught less of the full spectrum.) Eastmancolor's supreme commercial advantage came in producing a "monopack" multilayer emulsion that captured color on a single negative, although the complex chemistry that allowed for this also made the vegetable dyes, when "coupled" in developing, unstable. Technicolor release prints for theaters--known also as "imbibition" or "dye-transfer" prints--were created by the transfer of previously manufactured coal-tar dyes onto blank film through matrices, in a way roughly comparable to printing with inks on paper. In Eastmancolor's dye-coupler prints, the dyes are created, as they are in the negative, through a chemical processing that again leaves certain colors unstable.
There are several complications about the relationship of color fading in negatives and in release prints that are worth mentioning. Technicolor prints continued to be made until 1974, or for twenty years after the Technicolor negative process was abandoned (the three matrices necessary for prints being created by filters from the single dye-coupler negative).25 Thus it is possible for the color in Technicolor projection prints to look superb even while the original negative is in danger. Contrarily, it is common for dye- coupler prints to fade to that dull purple even while preprint material exists that allows for the striking of excellent new prints. There remains, however, dispute about the state of the original studio negatives from this era and of preprint backup material made from those negatives. (Although the fading rate is slower in some preprint material, restoration expert Robert Harris in his submission claims that "we have lost the original negatives to almost every [color] film of the 50s into the 60s.")26 Undoubtedly there is great variation in the rate of fading depending upon when the original stock was manufactured and the quality of the original processing.
Over the last two decades, the Eastman Kodak Company has introduced a number of lower-fading preprint and print stocks. 27 These have found use in both public archives and private preservation programs (such as the Turner Entertainment Company's recent recopying of MGM duplicate negatives, originally copied in the 1970s). If Kodak's lower-fading stocks were long ignored by the industry, it was essentially for economic reasons (the low-fade stocks of the late 1970s cost about 10% more).
Despite a few imaginative experiments, there remains only one proven method to prevent color fading: through what are known as "separations." In this widely used process, color film is copied through red, blue, and green filters to create three separate black- and-white records (roughly equivalent to what the Technicolor process created in the camera), each of which holds one of the three color records and which cannot fade because no dyes are involved. In theory, it is then a simple matter to recreate the color by combining the separations. In practice, there have been frequent problems, especially since most separations are not tested at the time of their creation to see if they can be recombined. Such a full testing would essentially double the initial cost of making separations, currently running at least $25,000 for two-hour feature.28 Even if tested, separations can develop their own preservation problems; shrinkage differences among the three rolls can prevent their alignment, creating a hazy, unfocusable image in the new color print.29
Only one other method is known to reduce, if not completely prevent, color fading: cold-and-dry storage.
Several of the technical matters described above--especially vinegar syndrome, color fading, and the retention of nitrate after copying--have conspired to give a new prominence in current preservation practice to storage conditions. The combined effect of lowered temperatures and lowered relative humidity in retarding both vinegar syndrome and color fading is startling and increasingly well documented. The one encouraging finding about these deterioration processes is how significantly both can be slowed by the right storage conditions.
The variations are complicated, but to take one example, the lowering of storage temperatures by 20 degrees Fahrenheit, from 80 degrees to 60 degrees, while lowering relative humidity by 20 percent, from 65% to 45%, delays the onset of vinegar syndrome from approximately 15 years after filmstock manufacture to 100 years (as illustrated on Figure 2). The effect of storage conditions on color fading is less easy to quantify because fading depends so much on the initial stock and processing quality, but the effect of cold-and-dry storage on relative rates of fading are equally dramatic. For instance, by lowering temperature from 75 degrees F to 45degrees, the color fading which would have occurred in 10 years will take 100 years (as illustrated on Figure 3).
For such reasons, several large and specially designed storage vaults have recently opened or are under construction both at private studios (Paramount, opened in 1990; Warner Bros., opened in 1993) and public archives (the Museum of Modern Art and the National Archives, both due to open in 1994).30 For such reasons too, recommended storage temperatures and relative humidities from the national organizations ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) have been lowered in the last few years. SMPTE's pending proposal for "extended term" storage of color prints suggests a maximum of 35 degrees F and of 20-30% relative humidity and of black-and-white prints a maximum of 70 degrees F and 20-30% RH.31 For public archives particularly these are difficult and expensive proposals. In its 1986 survey of public collections, the National Center for Film and Video Preservation found only 11 of the 28 responding institutions able to maintain their safety film at temperatures of less than 61 degrees F, and only 8 institutions could maintain a relative humidity of 45% or less.32 Still, since any lowering of temperature and humidity has major impact on film longevity, the SMPTE storage proposals can be thought of as goals. In practical terms, it has proven easier and cheaper to lower temperature than to lower humidity.34 For certain types of films (especially local history and ethnic culture on 8mm and super 8mm) where laboratory copying is essentially unavailable, proper storage is the only viable preservation alternative.
[Chart: Average Storage Temperature]
Figure 2: Effect of Temperature and Humidity on Acetate Film: When Will Vinegar Syndrome Begin Under Varying Storage Conditions? (PDF, 151KB) (Based on data from The Image Permanence Institute Storage Guide for Acetate Film)33
Figure 3: Effect of Temperature on Color Fading (Holding Relative Humidity at 40%) (PDF, 54.7KB) (From proposed SMPTE RP 131)
Storage is not the simple or full solution to current preservation problems: The start-up costs are huge (the Museum of Modern Art's two-building facility will cost around $12 million), the ongoing electrical expenses are considerable (Paramount's electric bill for its new vault alone runs to several hundred thousand dollars annually),35 and access to the films becomes problematic (since major changes in temperature and humidity may also be damaging to film).36 Nevertheless, storage is increasingly regarded as the critical factor in film longevity and is still not adequately integrated into public preservation plans and funding programs.
D. Technology and the Future.
Although this report is concerned only with current practice, it is worth commenting briefly on upcoming regulations and evolving technologies. Within the next few years, two chemicals routinely used in film preservation are expected to be banned for environmental reasons. Laboratory experts have not yet found adequate substitutes for use in film cleaning (essential in preparing older film for copying) and wetgate printing (a method which fills in scratches and other flaws, also essential for copying from older film).37
It also needs noting that there is no reasonable-cost electronic preservation solution on the immediate horizon, for two reasons: (1) a 35mm frame of film holds a huge amount of information, nearly 5 million pixels, expensive to capture electronically without loss; even the currently proposed digital standard for high definition television (HDTV), which should begin to be publicly available in the United States in 1995, will capture less than half of the visual information on 35mm film;38 and (2), should a reasonably priced method of electronic preservation develop, archivists would need to be cautious in its adoption because of the history of rapid obsolescence of electronic technologies. (Already a central problem in video preservation is the difficulty in constructing equipment to play recordings made only a few years ago; at least six major incompatible formats have evolved into obsolescence the last 20 years.)39 Clearly, an electronic preservation medium will develop sometime in the future--and that expectation reinforces the importance of proper storage--but while the technology evolves and the experiments continue, there is general agreement that film remains its own unrivaled preservation medium.
5. Film Preservation in Practice
While film base decay and color fading affect all motion pictures, the approach for addressing these problems varies greatly across the film industry and public/nonprofit organizations. The approaches reflect the funding available for preservation as well as the commercial rights owned by the repository. To compare the approaches, those holding film materials have been grouped below into broad categories: (A) studios with large film libraries, (B) independent producers and distributors, (C) stock footage libraries, (D) large public archives, (E) specialist film archives, (F) public institutions with small film collections, (G) private collectors, and (H) foreign archives.40
A. Studios with Large Film Libraries41
Film studios traditionally captured their revenue from exhibiting new films. For the industry's first 60 years, there was no mass audience for "last-year's pictures"; after a film's theatrical release cycle, most prints were destroyed and the preprint material, if still useable, was shelved and perhaps used as a source for clips.42 The advent of television brought a new market for some older sound films but still left studios with many other titles of little apparent commercial value. Confronted with limited markets, rising storage costs, and increasing insurance premiums for keeping nitrate film on the backlot, most studios either sold their libraries or copied more valuable titles onto safety stock, disposing of the nitrate. During the 1960s and 1970s some major studios, such as Columbia, MGM and United Artists, deposited their nitrate materials with public film archives.
The growth of secondary markets over the past decade has reversed the industry's traditional revenue sources. After their theatrical run, films now have several additional lives through licensing to cable, network television, home videotape and laserdisc (and can be expected to have more as new electronic delivery technologies develop).43 For an "average" major studio feature in 1990, revenues from these ancillary markets outstripped those from domestic and foreign theatrical release by about a million dollars, and the balance continues to shift.44 With films generating revenue over an extended time span, the studio library has become a key corporate asset. (For diversified corporations, film libraries also serve as "software" for other operations.45 For example, after purchasing MGM/UA in 1986, Ted Turner sold off the production operations but retained the MGM library for broadcast on his cable networks.)
The actual value of film libraries has been hotly debated by industry analysts.46 Each title's evaluation depends on anticipated audience interest over time and ownership of the exploitation rights as well as new technological applications. Commercial rights can be divided among different parties by geographic market, time period, distribution medium, language, and other factors. The approximate size of the libraries of industry respondents participating in the Los Angeles hearing is shown in Figure 4.
Since the beginning of the "home video era" around 1980, most studios have come to recognize the potential long-term value of their film libraries and some have embarked on ambitious "asset protection" programs. Paramount is a case in point. In the last five years it has spent over $35 million inspecting its negatives, audio tracks and color separations, doing film repair, and printing new preservation materials. In 1990 it opened a new $11-million archives building, with low-humidity cold vaults for preprint and color materials. Paramount stores second master printing copies in an underground facility in Pennsylvania and tracks its 750,000 items worldwide through an automated inventory system. By investing in the physical care of its collections, the studio expects to extend the shelf life of film elements and expedite retrieval.48 Industry storage practices, of course, vary. For example, two studio respondents store most film material at commercial vaults; several are in the process of automating their film inventory.
Most large studios now routinely keep preservation masters49 of films they produce as well as additional materials--such as foreign-language soundtracks or edited airline versions--required for ancillary markets. For each title, the studio may keep many different preprint and sound elements. For films distributed by major studios but produced by an independent company, the situation is somewhat different. Studios usually hold sufficient materials to generate release copies, but not the preservation back- up of color separations or the original camera negative. The depth of preservation protection depends on the scope and duration of the studio's commercial rights and the film's expected value over time. Films in which studios hold limited commercial interest generally do not receive the same depth of protection as the studio's own productions.50
Post-1950 safety films made before the introduction of studio asset protection programs present other complicated problems. According to some witnesses, the preprint materials of many well-known films of the 1950s and 1960s have deteriorated through color fading and soundtrack decay.51 The inherent physical problems were aggravated by substandard laboratory work, poor storage conditions, and inadequate inventory control. To redress past archival practices and capitalize on public interest in older titles, some studios have mounted well-publicized restoration campaigns. In 1990, for example, Warner Bros. announced the restoration of 26 "classics," including Rebel Without a Cause.52 Disney, Paramount, Sony and Universal have undertaken similar efforts.53 One central question remains about studio preservation: Will the secondary markets stimulate high-quality preservation of all studio-held films, including newsreels, 54 shorts and B-pictures?55 While industry sources see that potential, others wonder if efforts will be extended beyond the more commercially viable titles and urge public-private programs to verify the quality of preservation materials for privately owned American film titles.56
B. Independent Producers and Distributors
he film preservation practices of independent producers and distributors are as varied as the types of organizations in this catch-all category. Independents range from corporations that produce outside the major studio structure to single avant-garde artists distributing films from their basements. In general, these operations are alike in lacking the resources and organizational continuity to mount the aggressive asset protection programs of the larger studios. Several examples suggest the range of practices.
Lucasfilm, founded by director George Lucas, has gone to great lengths to preserve film, paper records and artifacts related to its productions.57 To use Star Wars (1977) as an example, Lucasfilm's distributor keeps the usual master cut negative and printing materials in a climate-controlled vault but, in addition, Lucasfilm has retained all other production elements. The firm has built its own archives building to house these materials.
Filmmaker Victor Nunez, whose Ruby in Paradise shared the 1993 Sundance Festival best picture award, represents the other end of the feature-production spectrum. To Nunez's independent company, raising funds is of more immediate concern than preserving past works. Nunez pays for storage of some preprint materials at a commercial lab, and discards outtakes and the original camera negatives. He does not own prints of his features. In fact, since the distributor of his 1984 feature A Flash of Green went bankrupt, he has been unable to get a print for theatrical screenings and cannot legally make a new one. He suspects that the Library of Congress copy, deposited for copyright protection, is one of the few prints in existence.58
Problems with distributors have led some independents to store and release films themselves. Documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman distributes through his own company, Zipporah Films, and has retained the full record--outtakes, preprint, one- quarter-inch tape, magnetic soundtrack and prints--for his 26 films. This amounts to roughly 16.5 million feet of film, tape and track and a $7000 yearly storage bill.59
The works of avant-garde and documentary filmmakers are among the most at risk--due to the conditions under which the films were originally made, the limited number of release prints, and inability of filmmakers to pay for adequate storage for preprint materials.60 For many years laboratories filled a gap by storing films free of charge to clients that used their services. Lab closings in New York City, however, left filmmakers and archives scurrying to rescue abandoned films and revealed the shortcomings of this arrangement.61 Filmmaker cooperatives and media centers sometimes house and distribute the only known print of contemporary avant-garde works.
As witnesses in Los Angeles point out,62 probably the first step is educating filmmakers about the preservation needs of their works. Canyon Cinema, a filmmaker-run distribution cooperative in San Francisco, recently recognized that some of its prints were rare works on color reversal stock and initiated a preservation program, funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation, through which filmmakers supervise the making of preprint material and new prints of their own works.63 The Estate Project for Artists with AIDS now assists filmmakers with AIDS to plan for the orderly disposition and archival housing of their films.64
The point to be gleaned from these examples is that independently made films are much less likely than studio productions to be maintained under conditions that will prolong their survival. Nationally distributed independent features present a particular problem, as their print and preprint materials may be scattered and controlled by different commercial interests who have limited rights and hence little incentive to invest in long- term preservation. Most smaller independents who maintain rights to their own films lack the resources, information, and scale of operations to develop comprehensive archival programs.
C. Stock Footage Libraries
Stock footage libraries are as open-ended a category as independent producers. The term "stock footage" refers to any sort of existing moving images sold or licensed for reuse in another context. Footage 89, the most extensive guide to American footage sources, estimates that there are 160 American companies characterizing themselves as stock footage libraries and hundreds of producers who license footage for reuse on an occasional basis.65
Stock footage libraries have, in some cases, the only known copy of films of historical interest and fill a special niche by their documentation of regional lifestyles, popular pastimes and daily life and work--activities generally considered too ordinary for national newsreels but whose documentation has increased in value over time. As market-driven operations, such businesses pay for their own preservation work and generally give priority to the most salable footage.
Moviecraft, Inc., is a typical example. Moviecraft specializes in abandoned films-- educational, industrial, and advertising shorts produced for specialized audiences, discarded after use and no longer under copyright protection. The firm licenses footage to researchers and copies its nitrate, preprint and print materials as income permits.66 Moviecraft and other commercial archival respondents point out that the Copyright Amendments Act of 1992, which effectively extends the initial copyright term of all post-1963 titles to 75 years, has had the result of discouraging stock footage libraries from salvaging and copying abandoned films of that era.67
D. Large Public Archives
The largest U.S. public archives--the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the International Museum of Photography and Film at George Eastman House (GEH), the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and the Library of Congress (LC)--have among them 224,000 film titles (see Figure 5). Adding the collections of the National Archives, these five institutions hold an estimated 89% of the total film footage in public repositories.68
These archives began collecting film before the industry took an active interest in preservation. MoMA, the oldest U.S. fiction film archive, started collecting films in 1935 to guarantee that copies of important titles would be preserved as a cultural record; it reached special agreements with studios to distribute films for educational use. The George Eastman House, opening in 1949 with the support of Eastman Kodak, formed a study collection of silent and independent films as part of its documentation of the history of photography. UCLA Film and Television Archive, founded in 1965 as part of the University of California, has developed extensive holdings of Hollywood fiction film and newsreels to support academic research and study.
The two federal film repositories began as collections of government and cultural record. The National Archives retains preprint and print material for U.S. government-produced films as well as actuality footage69 documenting U.S. history. In a sense, the National Archives serves as the "studio archive" for the federal government. 70 The Library of Congress selects prints of films deposited for U.S. copyright protection and has extensive holdings of American film productions of all types.
In their early years, these archives acquired culturally significant films in whatever form was available. Prints were obtained for in-house study and exhibition, but preprint material was also sought, as its acquisition assured that the title could be preserved and eventually made available to the public. In the 1960s and 1970s studios transferred to MoMA, GEH, UCLA, and LC extensive nitrate preprint collections; many newsreels, notably the series Universal News and The March of Time, were donated to the National Archives which completed conversion of its nitrate to safety film in the mid-1980s.
The four large fiction film archives now house a wide range of preservation source materials--nitrate preprint, nitrate prints representing the best surviving copy, vintage theatrical prints on safety film, and preservation masters created by the archives. In terms of number of titles, these collections are far larger than industry collections (compare Figures 4 and 5). But for each feature title, particularly for the post-nitrate period (post-1950), the public archives have less depth and variety of preservation source material. To return to the Star Wars example, the Library of Congress has copyrighted release prints and reference videodiscs, but the distributor Twentieth Century Fox holds extensive preprint materials and some circulation copies, and Lucasfilm maintains other production elements.
The preservation priority for the large public archives has been the duplication of nitrate film, particularly from the silent and early sound periods. Specialists have learned to restore films by working backward from the surviving prints and piecing together preprint elements. All five archives share information on preservation activities through International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) and have on-going programs to copy deteriorating film.71 UCLA, for example, has five full-time preservation employees as well as vault attendants who inspect and service its collections. The UCLA preservation staff coordinate restoration projects and physically prepare film for copying at specialized commercial laboratories. Like most archives outside of the federal government, UCLA contracts out for photographic and sound recording services (see Section 6.B.3).
The defining problem for public archive preservation programs is funding. The increasing difficulty in securing funds for routine film copying was a recurrent theme in the interviews, written submissions and hearings. While the federal institutions support most preservation copying internally, MoMA, UCLA, and GEH are heavily dependent on outside fund-raising and piece together their preservation budgets from many sources. MoMA's $350,000 1992 laboratory copying budget, for example, came entirely from endowment income, grants, and donations.72 In 1992 UCLA funded nearly 92% of its laboratory expenditures of $292,694 from outside sources.73 With federal grants and state arts council support decreasing (see Sections 6.B.1 and 7), these archives are increasingly turning to high profile preservation projects to generate income for more routine work.
Can the sale and distribution of films by these tax-exempt archives become a funding source for preservation? Only to a limited extent. It should be remembered that the large fiction archives hold copies, but not the rights to most films in their collections. In cases where the films are in the public domain or the rights have been transferred, the archive may sell footage to help sustain its program. In 1992 UCLA raised 29% of its entire operating budget though revenue-generating activities, principally the licensing of footage from the Hearst Metrotone News, the rights to which, along with the physical copies were donated to the University in the early 1980s.74 George Eastman House preserved and distributed through Kino International the Josephine Baker film Princess Tam-Tam (1935), netting some $20,000 for other projects.75 To judge from the submissions, however, this funding option seems more immediately feasible for regional archives holding primarily news and amateur footage.
With recent research reinforcing the importance of environmentally controlled storage, many archives are now working to improve vault conditions. MoMA's facility now under construction consists of a 28,000-square-foot building for safety film and a separate 9000-square-foot structure for nitrate. Aside from a small studio vault since converted to other uses, this is probably the first U.S. building specifically designed for nitrate storage in the last three decades.76 Archives II, the new National Archives building nearing completion in College Park, Maryland, will store color film at 25 degrees Fahrenheit and 30% relative humidity and black-and-white preprint at 65 degrees F, 30% RH. The vaults feature an air filtration system to strain out pollutants.77
Other archives are struggling to retrofit existing buildings to meet to new storage standards. LC has spent several years upgrading the mechanical systems in two of its three vault facilities, at Suitland, Maryland, and Dayton, Ohio. Within the next few years, UCLA will place its acetate film in the University of California southern library storage facility, now under construction. Its nitrate, however, will remain in commercial storage, built over forty years ago and lacking mechanical humidity and temperature controls.78
E. Specialist Archives
The specialist archives acquire and preserve films relating to a specific subject, region, ethnic group or genre. Taking root in the 1970s and 1980s, specialist archives answered the public's growing interest in independent, documentary and avant-garde film and brought together source materials in emerging areas of film and cultural studies. Some have become international leaders in their field. Founded in 1970 as an exhibition space for alternative film, the Anthology Film Archives, for example, has built one of the major avant-garde film collections in the world.
Specialist archives may be units within larger libraries, museums or universities, such as Iowa State University's American Archives of the Factual Film, or autonomous nonprofits such as Northeast Historic Film, a regional collection devoted to the moving images of northern New England. Fifteen specialist archives submitted comments for this study; the range of interests is suggested in Figure 5.79
Newer to the field, these specialists generally do not have as well-established (or as well- funded) preservation programs as the five large public archives. With several significant exceptions,80 these archives are primarily safety-film collections, and thus have not been compelled by the nitrate threat to focus energies on film copying. Indeed, as is pointed out in the submissions, their first preservation task is identifying endangered material and bringing it into archival custody.81 The Southwest Film/Video Archives at Southern Methodist University rescued from disposal entertainment films made for African American audiences; the Japanese American National Museum has located home movies of Japanese American daily life in the 1920s-1940s (including film clandestinely shot in World War II internment camps) through ties with the Japanese American community; the National Center for Jewish Film has searched several continents for films relating to the Jewish experience. It should be mentioned, too, that some collections, such as the New York Public Library's Donnell Media Center, were never intended as archives. They were started as film screening and study centers and were pressed into a preservation role, as titles dropped out of distribution and prints became increasingly rare. Others--particularly the regional archives like the Oregon Historical Society--hold small gauge stock (8mm and super 8mm), reversal film for which there is no economical and practical means of film copying.
The common thread for these organizations is an "as-funds-permit" approach to preservation. Usually they support preservation copying through a patchwork of funding sources, and their small staffs juggle many other duties. Among the specialist archives participating in this study, only half received funds from their own institution for laboratory work in 1992; most supported film preservation primarily through outside grants or gifts. To offset operational expenses, some collections of amateur and documentary film are turning to licensing footage. The Bishop Museum Archives promotes itself as one of two sources of Hawaiian actuality film in that state. The National Center for Jewish Film (NCJF) helps subsidize preservation through the sale of videotapes and the rental of exhibition prints as well as the licensing of footage for which it controls the rights. The NCJF likens these operations to its "museum store," a means of raising money while increasing public access to its collections.
Increasingly concerned by vinegar syndrome and color fading, specialist archives are stepping up efforts to improve storage conditions and regularize film inspection. A few, like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, have new environmentally controlled facilities; others, like the American Archives of the Factual Film and the Pacific Film Archive, are refitting storage areas in their parent institutions. Large and small alike, public archives generally see their fundamental preservation problem as funding: As films decay and public demands increase, how can they raise the funds to accelerate copying and improve storage?82
F. Public Institutions with Small Film Collections
Hundreds of government offices, historical societies, museums, universities, libraries, and nonprofit associations hold films scattered among their own organizational records or among collections of personal papers and educational resources. Just how many public institutions hold the best surviving copies of films of historic or cultural interest is difficult to say. Neither the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) or the Society of American Archivists has surveyed members regarding film holdings in recent years, although the AASLH notes an eight-fold growth since 1959 in the number of local history collections, some of which could have amateur footage or locally produced films.83 In his survey of stock footage sources, Richard Prelinger identified 1,750 public and commercial collections holding "unique moving image material (or material not easily accessed through other sources)" and allowing some form of public access. At the Washington hearing, Prelinger concluded that for films scattered in U.S. repositories, the "the state of information is pretty terrible;...decentralization makes it very difficult to have a broad picture of what actually still exists in this country."84
In terms of film preservation, the major problem for these disparate "non-film" organizations is simply finding out what to do. The Grand Rapids Public Library submission85 describes the effort required by smaller generalist organizations to save deteriorating films found in their collections. Receiving the Blissveldt Romance as a gift, the public library discovered through research that the locally produced 1915 nitrate film contained the earliest known footage of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and represented a rare surviving example of a type of regional fiction filmmaking common to the Teens. After the city historian made numerous contacts, the library eventually received an AFI-NEA grant to cover part of the laboratory copying costs. Using this $1,100 in federal money as leverage, it then worked to raise an additional $5,000 locally to cover the full preservation of Blissveldt and a second early nonfiction film. The copies have since been shown in Grand Rapids and reproduced in several productions. The point here is that most small public organizations with historically valuable films are not equipped to preserve them without expert technical advice and support.
The most shadowy part of the U.S. film-holding community is the private collector. Collectors range from filmmakers with prints of their own works to film buffs. Although the vast majority hold poorer copies of films also held in studio or public collections, some hold rare materials, like the recently discovered tinted, silent Frankenstein (1910) or the scenes censored from King Kong (1933).86 Some public- spirited film collectors have donated their personal collections to archives.87
Studios have long argued that collectors are a major market for pirates trafficking in unauthorized prints. The industry-funded Motion Picture Association of America, through its Film Security Office, has investigated film collecting activities. Several well- publicized law suits in the 1970s discouraged collectors from openly discussing their holdings.88
Studio restoration projects, however, have spurred new interest in working with private collectors. Seeking lost stereo sound tracks for some its 1950s films, Warners Bros., for example, put out a call to borrow stereo release prints in private hands. The studio guaranteed immunity from legal prosecution to those who lent the prints for copying.89 Several studio archivists privately admit to obtaining copies from collectors of titles the studio has lost. At both hearings, there was discussion among industry representatives of the possibility of an amnesty for collectors of Hollywood film.90
H. Foreign Archives
Foreign archives also hold valuable preservation source material for American film. Particularly in the early years of distribution abroad, foreign archives scooped up American release prints left over from theatrical runs. Like their American counterparts, they also absorbed private collections. Foreign archives have been especially reluctant to reveal their exact holdings of American films, fearing confiscation and possible legal action.
It is known, however, that a large number of lost or damaged American films exist in copies held abroad, particularly in Eastern Europe. For the film production of the 1920s, for example, approximately 35% of complete American features survive only in foreign archives (see Figure 11). In an international survey of archival holdings of films listed in the National Film Registry, foreign archives, when guaranteed anonymity, reported holding some form of preprint material for about 50%. There were three European archives that each had 20 to 25 titles, roughly equal to numbers found at the Museum of Modern Art or the Library of Congress.91
6. Federal Funding of Film Preservation
A. Preservation Copying and the Copyright Law
The public funding of film preservation brings up questions of film ownership. Public archives are limited legally in the ways they may use most films in their collections. U.S. copyright law distinguishes between ownership of copyright (or of any of the exclusive rights of copyright) and ownership of the "material object" in which the work is "embodied."92 For motion pictures, the original work can be embodied and distributed in 35mm film, 16mm film, videotape, laserdisc and other formats. Thus the owner of a physical copy, such as a videotape, might watch it privately in the home but is generally prohibited from duplicating or publicly exhibiting that copy without consent of the copyright holder. Public archives hold the physical copies, not the commercial rights, to most films in their collections.
The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee's discussions preceding passage of the 1976 Copyright Act took note of the copyright questions surrounding film preservation work and cited a "fair use" exemption for archives copying deteriorating films for preservation purposes.93 Archives, however, are restricted in certain other uses of the copyright-protected films they physically preserve. (They may make films available for on-site study but without permission of the copyright holder or the transfer of rights, archives generally cannot publicly exhibit copyrighted films or distribute them for sale. For further discussion of these access questions, involving copyright, fair use, and "public domain" films, see Section 8.)
B. Direct Federal Support of Preservation Copying
1. AFI-NEA Film Preservation Grants.
The principal public funding mechanism for film preservation in tax-exempt institutions is the American Film Institute-National Endowment for the Arts (AFI-NEA) Film Preservation Program. This grants program is administered by the National Center for Film and Video Preservation (NCFVP), a unit within the AFI coordinating film acquisition, preservation and cataloging among U.S. archives.94 By terms of an agreement between the AFI and NEA, the NCFVP acts as a "pass-through" organization for federal grants and deducts the cost of running the program from the federal allocation.95 Since 1985, the annual federal allocation for the program has been frozen at $500,000. The NCFVP's Washington Office distributes the grants and takes about $144,000 yearly to operate the program and acquire films for placement in American archives.
The AFI-NEA grants subsidize laboratory costs for copying deteriorating film onto new stock.96 To qualify for support, applicants must demonstrate the cultural value and rarity of the films proposed for copying, give evidence of a sound implementation plan (including laboratory estimates), and match the federal money with local funds on at least a one-to-one basis. Like many federal arts grants, the AFI-NEA awards are decided through a peer review panel.
Program scope and participation. The AFI-NEA program grew from the AFI's effort to collect and copy nitrate films in the late 1960s. Since 1979 about 85% of the funds have gone to the largest nitrate archives: the Museum of Modern Art, the International Museum of Photography and Film at George Eastman House, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive, which, taken together, report approximately 97% of the uncopied nitrate in public hands (not counting the Library of Congress).98
The AFI-NEA grants now fund copying of decaying acetate as well as nitrate film in a broad range of non-federal institutions. (Major recipients are shown in Figure 6). Between 1979 and 1992, 37 archives, historical societies, libraries, and universities received grants; 99 overall 65% of the yearly applicants are awarded some amount of support. Recipients of smaller awards emphasize that the value of the federal grants goes far beyond the actual dollars.100 The grants help validate the cultural interest of the preservation projects and thus attract matching funds from local donors. From 1979 to 1992, the program awarded over $5.5 million in grants, stimulating at least double that dollar amount in film preservation expenditures. (For yearly totals, see Figure 8.)
What types of films are copied with federal grants? The AFI-NEA program provides a preservation safety net for lesser-known American films of cultural and historic value. The overwhelming number of titles copied with grant funds are silent, factual, avant- garde, or dance films--film types less likely to receive asset protection in the industry or to attract preservation donations to public archives. The program has consistently worked to preserve America's oldest motion pictures. Over 50% of the titles copied between 1979 and 1992 were made before 1929, the year that "talkies" became common (see Figure 7). Without the AFI-NEA program many American silent films would not survive today.
[Figure 7: What Types of Films Are Preserved with AFI-NEA Grants? (PDF< 72.4KB)101 (Based on grant records for titles copied, 1979-92)]
The remaining titles are a diverse group. The studio sound features on nitrate were largely funded in the early years of the program, before the industry began its major retrospective preservation efforts. Roughly 2% of the total are nitrate sound features by smaller or now-defunct independent producers. Most of the post-nitrate era films are experimental or dance works. Since 1979 three specialist archives--the National Center for Jewish Film, the New York Public Library Dance Collection and Anthology Film Archives--have received roughly 10% of the total funding, thus assuring a certain threshold of preservation copying in these recipients' subject areas. All told over the last 14 years, the AFI-NEA program has funded copying of over 3,300 films.
The gray area for AFI-NEA grants is nonfiction film. The AFI-NEA grants are administratively linked with the NEA's Media Arts, a unit mandated to support works of "artistic excellence" and the AFI-NEA grants are expected to follow the general principles of the larger program.102 In practical terms, this means that the AFI-NEA program is asked to distinguish between films of "artistic" and purely factual interest. Working within these guidelines, it has awarded preservation funds to nonfiction film and actuality footage, some 16% of the total titles copied.103
Declining funding. Though interest has expanded, the AFI-NEA preservation funding has declined markedly since 1979, in both actual and inflation-adjusted dollars (see Figure 8). Federal support has not kept pace with rising laboratory costs (see Section 6.B.3) or with the growing list of film preservation problems documented in recent scientific research. In 1980 the program distributed $514,215 in federal grants, an amount sufficient to copy the equivalent of 159 black-and-white silent features (not counting the matching funds provided by recipients); in 1992 the $355,600 in awards could support copying for fewer than 26.104 Thus U.S. film archives have been competing for decreasing federal preservation money that buys decreasing amounts of preservation copying. In 1979, the AFI-NEA program funded 82% of the preservation project dollars requested by applicants; in 1993 it funded only 27%.
2. The Library of Congress and the National Archives Programs.
The federal government also supports preservation copying through the programs of the two major federal film repositories--the Library of Congress (LC) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Each has an in-house laboratory handling most internal film preservation work105 and contracts with commercial labs for color film processing or complex soundtrack restoration.
The Library of Congress established its own preservation lab in 1971,106 with the funding assistance of the NEA, to manage conversion of its extensive nitrate holdings to safety film. Now located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, the conservation laboratory specializes in black-and-white nitrate film, duplicating over a million feet yearly. It has customized equipment to handle brittle and shrunken filmstock and other problems common to deteriorating nitrate.
By the mid-1980s the National Archives and Records Administration had copied all federally held nitrate titles, outside of those in the LC.108 Its laboratory work now involves safety film and videotape. The NARA actively promotes preventive measures to slow film deterioration; it has used polyester-base film and low-fade color stock for copying projects and encourages federal agencies to place government-made films under archival conditions soon after production.
Like the AFI-NEA grants, the LC funds for film preservation copying have markedly declined from their 1980 level. When adjusted for inflation (see Figure 8), the LC 1992 film copying allocation109 was less than half of the 1980 amount, although the size of its film collection has grown by some 100,000 reels. Putting aside the NARA expenditures for film preservation copying, which are difficult to isolate, 110 the total federal funding for film preservation through the AFI-NEA and the Library of Congress was $796,080 in FY 1992.
3. The Role of Commercial Laboratories
With the exception of LC and NARA, U.S. public and nonprofit archives contract with commercial laboratories for most preservation copying and restoration. Since the early 1970s a handful of commercial firms have sprung up that specialize in this work.111 As experts testified, film preservation differs substantially from routine processing and printing. Most medium and large-sized commercial motion picture labs make their profit from the mass production of new theatrical release prints. Specialist preservation labs instead work on a much smaller scale and concentrate on preprint preparation. Deteriorating film can pose many types of technical problems, and specialist labs adjust their approach to suit the job at hand. Thus, because of the scale and degree of customization, film preservation is more like a craft than a mass production operation. 112 In view of the concerns voiced by archival users--the cost of preservation work, the capacity of preservation laboratories, and lack of facilities for non-standard gauge film--it is worth examining the vital role of these small business operations in national film preservation efforts.
While serving both public and industry clients, commercial preservation laboratories receive most of their work from the private sector. All specialist labs responding to this study reported that 40% or less of their business came from public and nonprofit archives. Generally preservation labs employ fewer than 20 technicians. To fully train an employee for film preservation work, one lab estimates, requires two years.
Preservation laboratory work is priced by the labor and time required for the task. The cost for even so seemingly standard a product as a black-and-white duplicate silent-film negative varies with the condition of the deteriorating film and the preparation work required. With more complex reconstructions--sound, color, widescreen formats--costs increase. Costs therefore vary within a range and are difficult to reduce to a single price-per-foot measurement.
That said, average film preservation copying costs have indeed increased over the last decade. Based on figures supplied by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the average cost for copying a 90-minute black-and-white silent film has more than doubled over the last 12 years, even after adjusting for inflation (see Figure 9). Preservation of sound film or of two- or three-strip Technicolor is more expensive, due to the greater amount of material examined and copied.113 With the declining level of federal funding, these cost increases are more difficult to absorb for public archives than for industry clients. To put this in terms of the shrinking federal preservation dollars, in 1980 the UCLA AFI-NEA preservation grant of $107,349 would have funded the copying of 33 deteriorating black-and-white silent films; in 1992 its $101,000 grant could only preserve 7.
[Figure 9: Cost of Preserving a Black-and-White Silent Feature (PDF, 126KB) (Based on UCLA figures for a 90-minute 35mm film, copied from a print)]114,115
Specialist labs argue that their facilities are now operating below peak capacity and could better serve public and nonprofit clients if the flow of preservation copying work were regularized. To justify investment in customized equipment or training additional staff, labs have to be confident of receiving a certain threshold of work over time.116 Publicly funded projects are now a less reliable source of revenue than commercial work. The very nature of the AFI-NEA grant program--its annual cycle and project-by-project approach--discourages multi-year commitment to broad initiatives with large start-up costs.117
C. Support of Preservation-Related Activities
In addition to funding ongoing film copying programs, federal money supports other preservation-related efforts on a project-by-project basis.
AFI Catalog. The AFI Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States, an authoritative description and index, has over the years received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the NEA. The project has completed volumes on the features of the Teens, the 1920s, 1930s and 1960s, and begun research on the earliest U.S. films (1893-1910) and the features of the 1940s. It hopes to extend coverage eventually to American shorts and newsreels.
The AFI Catalog has many applications. For scholars of film and American culture, the Catalog is a basic reference book and will probably become even more accessible when issued on CD-Rom, as is currently under discussion. For film archivists, the Catalog defines the baseline for U.S. film production. It gives accurate information for identifying films acquired without titles or credits, and verifies the length, technical processes and versions of features as they were originally released. By recording studio and independent production decade-by-decade, the Catalog provides a statistical population against which film survival rates can be reliably calculated.
National Moving Image Database. A project less visible to scholars is the National Moving Image Database (NAMID), launched in 1984 as means for sharing information on archival film holdings. NAMID is conceived as a family of databases linking public/nonprofit archives and studio collections through a common communication format; the goal is to facilitate film preservation, scholarly research, and shared cataloging. Between 1984 and 1993, the project received $1,370,000 in NEA support.118
NAMID currently operates as a data-purchase program. NAMID awards selected tax- exempt archives "conversion funds" to organize and automate their film catalogs and submit data to the National Center for Film and Video Preservation in Los Angeles.119 The program has been a major vehicle for introducing automated systems to smaller archives. As of April 1993, it had collected data from 21 archives120 and amassed a database of 165,000 records representing some 100,000 feature, short, video and avant- garde titles.121
NAMID, however, has failed to become a regularly consulted preservation tool among U.S. archivists. Little of the database is available for direct, dial-in consultation. Access protocol complexities and the delays in updating holdings information have discouraged use.122 To find out if specific titles have been copied, most archivists still prefer calling colleagues or requesting a search of the AFI-NEA grants database, an in-house tool developed for tracking the distribution of grants and AFI Collection materials.123
National Film Registry. The National Film Registry was created by Congress in 1988 to single out American films of particular cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance. Films listed in the Registry are collected and preserved by the Library of Congress in their original release version. Each year nominations to the Film Registry are solicited from the public, and 25 selections are added by the Librarian of Congress, in consultation with the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB), an eighteen-member advisory group of film industry, academic and archival representatives. The National Film Registry now numbers 100 titles. While some respondents fault the Registry for overrepresenting studio-produced Hollywood features,124 the Registry has moved toward greater coverage of independent and documentary film.
The renewal of the National Film Preservation Act in 1992 reauthorized the activities of the NFPB for four more years and expanded the role of the Librarian of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board in preservation planning.125 The 1992 law mandated this study and a national film preservation program, both to be submitted to the appropriate Congressional committees. Congress authorizes $250,000 yearly for the National Film Preservation Board activities. In 1992 the funds supported the cost of National Film Preservation Board meetings, the two hearings, preparation of this study, and acquisition and preservation of several independent films listed on the National Registry.
Other federal support. Other grantmaking agencies play a lesser role in film preservation. The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a statutory body affiliated with the National Archives and Records Administration, funds efforts to organize, describe and preserve collections of paper and non-textual records of documentary importance for American history. To date, among tax-exempt moving image archives, NHPRC has funded largely television newsfilm projects, although it has been open to proposals involving other types of unpublished documentary footage.126 Motion picture collections within large research libraries are eligible for support through the "strengthening Research Library Resources Program" (Higher Education Act, Title II-C). Administered by the Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, this effort funds the cataloging and preservation of publicly accessible collections; relatively few film-related applications are received.127
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), a long-time supporter of the AFI Catalog, has no program specifically designed for film archives. While traditionally deferring to the NEA in funding the physical preservation of motion pictures, the NEH Division of Preservation and Access has, as of June 1993, a pending grant for a newsreel preservation project, its first for motion picture preservation in nearly a decade.
Summary. To sum up, federal funds, through the in-house programs of the Library of Congress and the National Archives and more recently the AFI-NEA grants, have sustained film preservation copying for several decades, although support has decreased by half in the last fourteen years. The NEA, NHPRC and Department of Education also fund, on a more occasional basis, projects to collect and organize motion pictures and film information in institutions that meet application criteria. What is missing from this national framework is funding for improving film storage conditions128 and for the preservation copying of documentaries and newsreels produced and circulated outside of the federal government.
7. Foundations Funding Film Preservation
As the level of AFI-NEA grants has declined and laboratory costs increased, corporate and private foundations have helped bridge the gap in funding preservation in public and nonprofit archives.129 Film projects are usually supported through foundations' general cultural or community outreach programs. A small number of foundations, however, have made film preservation a primary concern.
Probably the foundation most actively supporting American film preservation has been the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Between 1981 and 1992, the Packard Foundation distributed over $2 million for film copying, exhibition, and research to the National Center for Film and Video Preservation, the Library of Congress, the Pacific Film Archive, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive. The Packard Foundation has been a major funder of the AFI Catalog and the nitrate conversion of newsreels and feature films of the 1930s. It is particularly concerned with the quality of film access and has supported the striking of new 35mm prints so that the public can experience films as they were originally intended to be seen.130
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's principal film interests are independent filmmaking and public affairs documentaries. The MacArthur grants to media centers, $7 million from 1987-1991, support a variety of local access, exhibition and preservation activities as well as production facilities for independent filmmakers and videomakers. The foundation has also funded public screening programs; in 1991, for example, UCLA received a MacArthur grant to make prints of films by Mexican directors for exhibition in the U.S. and Mexico.131
Several foundations developed from the estates of filmmakers are involved in film preservation. The Louis B. Mayer Foundation is funding a demonstration project to create new Technicolor prints from original three-strip Technicolor negatives at the Beijing Film and Video facilities.132 Both the Andy Warhol and the Mary Pickford Foundations have underwritten preservation efforts in their respective areas of interest-- the avant-garde and the Hollywood film.
The Film Foundation, begun in 1990 by Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Francis Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas, Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford, and Steven Spielberg, presents a very different profile. The Film Foundation is, in a sense, a grassroots organization started by successful filmmakers to increase preservation awareness within the industry and cooperation with public archives. Scorsese has lobbied studios to protect older films in their libraries and persistently pushed to improve the quality of preservation laboratory work.
The Film Foundation has gone directly to the public to convey the urgency of current preservation problems. This March it cosponsored with the American Movie Classics (AMC) cable network a three-day festival of film preservation. The AMC festival broadcast features, shorts, and nonfiction films restored by the public archives as well as short documentaries and celebrity interviews on film preservation, and solicited preservation donations from the audience by means of an 800-number.133
8. Public Access
Increasingly, preservation is understood to be incomplete without access to the preserved film.134 Laudable as a principle, it raises many questions.
"Access"--as it is used in the hearings, submissions, and elsewhere--is a catch-all term for a wide variety of film uses, including study, public exhibition, distribution, and footage licensing. Some of these uses are broadly educational, others clearly commercial. A correspondingly wide array of public constituencies seek access to preserved films, including scholars, classroom viewers, telejournalists, filmmakers, cable operators, video distributors, filmgoers and video renters. Access means different things to each of these groups. Access to film also requires either on-site viewing or a method of off-site delivery, and formats for both are also varied, chiefly 35mm prints, 16mm prints, videotape, videodisc, and electronic transmission.
Among the institutions and businesses that hold film, the policies regarding access are as multiple as the possible combinations of uses, users, and formats suggest. For the major studios and other rights holders, access is a key commercial decision. The Walt Disney Studio's longstanding policy of regular seven-year theatrical re-releases of its animated features is only the best known example of the way that cycles of access and access-denial can prolong a title's commercial life. A number of filmmakers, including Alfred Hitchcock, John Wayne, and John Cassavetes (and their estates), turned the withholding of access into a tool for creating scarcity and audience anticipation that probably adds to commercial value. No doubt the public's right to view a privately owned cultural heritage needs to be factored in here, but the commercial principle is fairly clear.
Access and the public archives. Where the question of access is currently most contentious is in regard to films held by public archives. For many of those seeking copies of films, archivists can look as if they are perversely saving films for a posterity that never quite arrives.135 The frustration is understandable, but it needs also to be noted that archivists are working under certain constraints, both legal and practical.
Access to a great many films held in public archives is restricted legally in two ways: through copyright and through contracts. As mentioned at the opening of Section 6, U.S. copyright law distinguishes between "ownership" and the "material object" in which that ownership is embodied. For film titles under copyright protection, public archives typically hold only the material objects--the film copies--which "fair use" exceptions allow archives to make available for on-site educational study and to duplicate for preservation purposes.136 Other rights to reproduce, distribute, and publicly exhibit the film are generally retained by the copyright owner.
Films without copyright protection, and thus available for use without licensing, are usually labeled "public domain," a sometimes confusing term because of its application to several groups of films. The term deserves a brief digression because of its frequent use in the submissions and testimony.
Public domain. Titles most clearly in the public domain are those created and distributed over 75 years ago--the greatest length for which copyright is generally allowed. By the end of 1993, therefore, films distributed before 1919 will have fallen into public domain. (There are, however, exceptions even to this rule, notably for so-called "unpublished" films.)137 Other more recent films are also labeled "public domain," and for them the determination of copyright status can become extremely complicated. Under the 1909 Copyright Act, registered works could enjoy two terms of protection, a 28-year first term and, if renewed at the end of that term, a second 28-year term. In the 1960s Congress made various extensions for works already in their renewal term, eventually adding 19 years, thus bringing the total potential protection to 75 years. However, if an owner neglected to submit a renewal at the end of that first term, the film fell into public domain. Current law has simplified this procedure so that, in effect, films registered after 1963 have a single 75-year term.138
What further muddies public domain is the copyright status of "underlying works," such as a film's literary source or music. Even if the film itself lacks copyright protection, these underlying works may have owners different from the film's owner and who may possess some control over it. The current legal battle over two videotape versions of John Wayne's 1963 film McLintock! suggests the complexity of public domain issues. Although copyright for the film itself lapsed, several copyrights involving the music score were renewed and the dispute centers over those rights.139 Even the most famous example of a film long presumed to be in the public domain, Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946) whose copyright expired in 1974, is now claimed to be controlled by rights holders of the original short story and soundtrack music.140 Public archives have been reluctant to insert themselves into these legal disputes by releasing films less than 75 years old, especially as archives would be liable for copyright infringement should they exceed the narrow fair use exceptions.141
In addition, the use of films at public archives is often governed by legally binding instruments of gift or deposit. In certain rare cases, these contracts give the archives the copyright ownership as well as the physical material (as with the Hearst Metrotone News collection at the UCLA Film and Television Archive). More often, the contracts restrict the use of both the donated or deposited material and of the preservation copies made from that material, even after the expiration of copyright. (The contentious situation that has resulted from such contracts is discussed more fully in Section 9.)
Balancing preservation and access. Beyond the legal issues, public archives labor under practical constraints that also hinder access. As is evident from the earlier discussion of funding, archives are making do with considerably fewer preservation resources than a decade ago, and recent calls for greater access have coincided with the acknowledgement of such additional problems as color fading and acetate-base degradation that have stretched basic nitrate-copying and storage resources even thinner. Providing greater access to film titles in public archives often requires not simply the diversion of employees but the more difficult decision to carry copying to the viewable "reference print" stage, a perhaps unjustifiable trade-off when it comes at the cost of preprint preservation for nitrate in danger of being lost forever.142
Access is thus less a matter of opening the vault doors than of balancing responsibilities. In physical terms, access may be the opposite of preservation. But archivists seek a balance. As Robert Rosen, Director of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, puts it in his submission, "Preservation without access is dead storage; access without preservation is destructively short-sighted." Stephen Gong, General Manager of the Pacific Film Archive, speaks of "the interconnectedness of collection, preservation, access, exhibition and study of film."143
Film access today. It is difficult to generalize about the current state of film access because of that extreme variety of film uses, users, formats, and institutions. A decade and a half into the "home video era," it is already hard to recall just how greatly access to Hollywood features has improved--at least on videotape and disc. The profusion of commercially available videos has brought evolutions, too, in the kinds of access asked of public archives; there are fewer requests for individual screenings of mainstream films but more requests for archives themselves to make their public domain titles available for video release. The National Archives and Records Administration estimates that 70-80% of its researchers are seeking footage or conducting background research for new productions.144 The increased sophistication of film scholarship has brought greater published use of and requests for "frame enlargements"--still photographs made directly from film prints--an unresolved issue that touches on both legal and physical constraints.145
Access in museums and local history organizations is often through exhibitions that incorporate video and interactive displays.146 16mm remains a vital format among independent filmmakers and distribution cooperatives, but 16mm prints of feature films are becoming more difficult to find for classroom rental, as studios and commercial distributors abandon the format; currently unavailable are key works of American film directed by Samuel Fuller, Alfred Hitchcock, Douglas Sirk and many others. Theatrical screenings of 35mm prints of older titles in repertory houses is a spotty proposition, with certain studios making their library titles actively available (e.g., MGM, Paramount, Turner), and others only rarely (e.g., Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal).147 Public archives are often pressed to fill the gaps in such requests for 35mm prints but generally do so only for established non-profit theatrical venues and film festivals. Users often must pay both fees to the copyright holders and shipping costs to the archives.148
Each of the five largest public archives maintains a screening program in their on-site theaters. (See Figure 5 for the number of screenings in FY 1992). For such screenings of the archives' own physical holdings, the major-studio copyright owners usually forego their fees, through contract agreements and case-by-case permissions. For titles to which public archives do hold rights or which are in the public domain, there is that potential for developing revenue-generating ventures mentioned earlier.
Generally speaking, access programs in the public archives have been conceived more as public services than revenue sources. The Museum of Modern Art's Circulating Film Library (the pioneer rental program for educational institutions) of 1100 titles, primarily in 16mm, attempts to operate on a break-even budget and pays royalties (generally 50% of rental) to copyright holders.149 The UCLA Film and Television Archive does earn funds from licensing its Hearst Metrotone News collection. The George Eastman House distributes about 30 titles through MoMA's Circulating Film Library and has begun to distribute other restored titles on videodisc (through the Lumivision company); thus far, the seven videodiscs released have not been a significant source of income (although $20,000 was generated by the Josephine Baker film, Princess Tam-Tam, mentioned earlier). The first six videotapes in the "Library of Congress Video Collection," due for public release in December, will make available six early silent features and 29 silent shorts from the Library of Congress preservation program. Largely unexplored has been educational access through newer electronic and computer technologies.150
Access to cataloged information about titles held in the public archives and the private studios also generally remains an unfulfilled potential, as discussed earlier in connection with the National Moving Image Database. Currently among the largest public archives, UCLA and the Library of Congress have the most accessible databases. UCLA's is available nationally by computer modem with payment of a fee.151 The main database of the Library of Congress' holdings (LOCIS) became nationally available without charge through the Internet in 1993, although this database currently includes only about a third of the Library's total film holdings.152 Representatives of each of the Hollywood studios participating in the hearings expressed a willingness, if in general terms, to make information about their holdings more widely accessible.153
9. Who Benefits from Publicly Funded Film Preservation?
Public benefits. Expenditure of tax dollars on film preservation implies a wide public benefit from the activity. And indeed those benefits are significant, because public funding assures that at least a portion of what is saved as collective visual memory is not purely determined by commercial markets. Some of this publicly preserved material is disseminated second hand, so to speak, especially through writing and scholarship about film art. Now that living recollection of early film is rare, archives play an even more central role in making this scholarship possible, and in expanding the range of topics available for informed discussion at the 550-some U.S. colleges and universities that now teach film as art and culture.154 Figure 5 details, for public and nonprofit archive respondents, the numbers of study visits, film loans and on-site screenings that make films directly available to the public. Publicly preserved actuality footage is also incorporated into new documentary productions, history at its most immediately compelling. With traditional publishing and electronic retrieval of visual images becoming more interlinked--as in the Library of Congress's "American Memory" interactive videodisc project--the educational and informational value of this public preservation will only expand.
Benefits to rights holders. While the public benefits of film preservation are relatively obvious, less frequently discussed are the private benefits--advantages enjoyed by the rights owners of films maintained and preserved by the public and nonprofit archives. These benefits are part of the full preservation cost/benefit equation. Before describing these benefits, it is helpful to return once again to the legal context under which studios place their films in archives.
Studios either give physical copies of films to public archives outright or place them on long-term deposit. In either case, the studios generally retain the rights to their titles and negotiate the terms for archival use. A major portion of the Hollywood preprint collections at the four large nitrate archives are on long-term deposit; that is, the physical copies are still owned by their studios. While the deposit agreements differ from case to case, typically they allow the archive to show films to individual scholars, screen them for limited in-house exhibition, and, most importantly, make preservation copies for the archive's own collections. Loans to film festivals and similar events generally require the permission of the copyright holder. In return, the archive stores the material and allows depositors access to the original nitrate elements and, generally, one-time use of any new preservation masters made by the archive. In most cases, the studio contracts carry prohibitions against commercial use that do not expire when the term of copyright ends.
Gift agreements generally carry similar provisions. With gifts, however, the ownership of the physical property (although usually not the rights) passes to the tax-exempt archive, thus opening up the possibility for the donor to claim a charitable contribution for tax purposes. Transamerica Corp. v. United States, an appeals court decision noted in some submissions, explores the balance of private/public benefits from such arrangements.155 In 1969 United Artists donated to the Library of Congress the earliest surviving preprint material for 3000 Warner Bros. and Monogram films. Under the instrument of gift, the donor retained full commercial exploitation rights as well as the power to control access to the collection, aside from preservation and on-site scholarly use, even after the copyrights expired. The court found that the Transamerica (which at the time owned United Artists) received "substantial benefit" from its transfer and disallowed the charitable contribution.156
What are the private benefits of public film preservation? For donors or depositors of nitrate materials, a key benefit is storage.157 To appreciate the full value of this benefit requires some historical perspective. Studios transferring films before the late 1970s generally presumed their libraries had exhausted most of their commercial life. Public institutions were a safety net, a means of warehousing the earliest generation preprint without having to pay for its upkeep. Archives recognized that culturally significant nitrate films might be lost to the public if they did not provide this service. Now, of course, the market has changed, and studios value their preprint differently, but past agreements are still in force.
The public archives pick up the costs of storing and caring for the nitrate preprint materials to which the studios have ongoing access. Archives without their own nitrate vaults, such as UCLA, pay for commercial storage in specially designed, explosion- proof vaults. The cost of nitrate storage ranges from about $120 to $240 per month for 1 million feet of film (one thousand 1000-foot reels), depending on the location of the facility, features of the vault, services offered by the vendor, and total quantity of film stored. At these 1993 rates, the combined studio preprint nitrate currently housed by the Library of Congress, for example, would cost the equivalent of $138,096 to $276,192 yearly to keep in a commercial vault, not counting retrieval fees and other service costs. 158 Figure 10 lists, by archive, the amount of the nitrate preprint footage for which studios still maintain rights. For this material, the yearly storage costs at average 1993 commercial rates would total $275,730.
In the 1990s the terms of these arrangements are being rethought. In conjunction with its recent deposit agreement with the Library of Congress, Disney is paying the salary of the technician who inspects and services Disney preprint elements at the LC nitrate facilities in Ohio. Similarly Sony has begun contributing to the upkeep of the Columbia nitrate collection, donated to LC in the 1970s through the American Film Institute, by paying for two support staff.
The restoration work done by archives contributes to another private benefit. As the testimony suggests, restoration work is a costly, labor-intensive activity involving careful comparisons of many generations of film materials to identify the best surviving source for copying. Several well-known film restorers work at public or nonprofit archives; their reconstruction of films physically held by their archives can increase the films' commercial value. Furthermore, the FIAF-member archives, through contacts with foreign archives, are able to tap sources of preservation material unavailable to the studios. The recent restoration of the Spanish-language Dracula (1930) suggests the importance of such contacts in restoring older titles. Dracula, shot with a Spanish- speaking cast on the Universal backlot at the same time as the better-known Tod Browning/Bela Lugosi version, was rumored to include sensational lost scenes that would not have passed the U.S. censor. Undertaking its restoration, Universal found a nearly complete version at the Library of Congress, and, with the assistance of UCLA, located the missing reel at a FIAF-member archive in Havana, Cuba.160 The restored Spanish language Dracula has enjoyed specialized re-release.
A point of concern among film preservationists is that the archival contribution to restoration projects is not routinely credited when rights holders re-distribute the titles. Anthony Slide, in his submission,161 singles out two videotape releases, MacBeth (1948) and Hell's Angels (1930), which incorporate public restoration work without acknowledgement. This hides from the film-viewing public the role of public archives in film preservation.
Aside from the storage and restoration work, studios may also collect royalty fees when the publicly minted prints are lent and exhibited at film festivals. Bruce Goldstein, Director of Repertory Programming at Film Forum, one the nation's oldest repertory film theaters, suspects that rights holders net relatively little from the exhibition of these prints. However, the screenings can increase public interest and have the effect of boosting commercial videotape and laserdisc sales of the exhibited film and of titles by the same director or with the same stars.162 Like studio re-releases, public screenings of archival prints can promote ancillary market activity.163
10. Redefining Preservation
How are preservation success and progress measurable? It is not such an easy question. The temptation is to measure the state of film preservation in terms of one statistic: "feet of nitrate remaining to be converted to safety film." Its corollary is "cost to convert this nitrate." Although it is possible to calculate such figures--as is done two paragraphs below--one wants to be wary of them for reasons both simple and fundamental.
The "uncopied nitrate" statistic ideally includes only the best surviving material--worthy of the labor and expense of copying. As it is currently difficult to disentangle primary material from duplicate or secondary footage, both within individual collections and among different collections, the figure can be only a very rough estimate at best. Too, costs for conversion from nitrate to safety are extremely variable (with a reasonable range for quality black-and-white work running from approximately $1.50 to $3.50 per nitrate foot), depending primarily on the physical state and generation of the nitrate.164 Also, the footage of safety film produced does not correlate with footage of nitrate copied.165
Assuming, however, that one could calculate a reliable footage figure for unique uncopied nitrate and meaningfully estimate costs for its copying (a ballpark estimate might be 97 million feet, costing perhaps $243 million to copy adequately),166 the question then becomes: What does that estimate tell us? For "uncopied nitrate" to be the key statistic, one must first assume that, once copied, nitrate is no longer a preservation concern. It would be wonderful if that were so. But the hearings, submissions, and interviews suggest otherwise, primarily because of the existence of old and unsatisfactory copying: "preservation" that needs to be redone to approach today's quality standards.
To some degree, recognition of the need to recopy is a measure of increasing technical sophistication. Laboratory equipment and techniques have improved, and knowledge about aging nitrate has increased. Too, standards which slipped by in an era when 16mm was the major television and educational format no longer apply.167 But it also must be admitted that much earlier preservation copying was poorly done, incompetent or slipshod. One needn't go so far as William K. Everson, when he suggested back in 1978 that "lab work today is, for the most part, of an order that should justify a war crimes tribunal,"168 to admit that too large a portion of previous work has been substandard.
Such work exists in copying done both in public archives and for the major studios. Most of the Library of Congress's preservation copying from the late 1950s to the early 1970s was by optical reduction onto 16mm through the Department of Agriculture, and LC has found other early 35mm copying unsatisfactory by contemporary standards (including a number of Frank Capra features now being redone). An ongoing project (initially in collaboration with UCLA) to recopy the pre-1913 "paper prints" onto 35mm arose from widespread dissatisfaction with image loss in the earlier 16mm reduction preservation. The Museum of Modern Art recently recopied various Douglas Fairbanks and Buster Keaton silents whose initial preservation now also appears inadequate. Among the studios, it is ironically those that had the greatest foresight about the importance of preservation (such as Disney and the old MGM, now Turner) that found their first pass at preservation needing to be redone.
The tragedy--which applies again to examples in both the private and public sectors--is that a good portion of the original nitrate has deteriorated or been discarded before new, satisfactory safety copies could be made. The point here is not so much to cast blame for the errors of the past. There is enough of that to go around. Rather, what is important is that this body of unsatisfactory preservation, even if impossible to measure, be factored into assessment of the current state of preservation and into any plan for future quality control.169 An exclusive stress on "uncopied nitrate footage" ignores this unfortunate fact, widely whispered if not widely discussed. Indeed, institutions first copy the material that they think is most important. Thus the most valued film titles have usually had the earliest preservation copying and may be most in need of reinspection and recopying.
Nitrate copying remains central to American film preservation, if only because nitrate is the oldest film stock. At current public funding levels, unique nitrate in archives is already rotting away. But finally the problem with quantifying film preservation progress exclusively in terms of uncopied nitrate is not so much that footage or conversion-cost statistics are unreliable but that they distort the very nature of the preservation problem. The hearing participants and respondents generally agreed that preservation is an ongoing task that must be reinterpreted in a wider framework, involving storage and access as well as copying.
Progress. Although progress is difficult to quantify, there are a several successes and reasons for hope that shine out of the current preservation crisis. The most significant positive change in the last decade is the almost complete realignment in the industry's attitude toward the value of films in studio libraries, and thus of their worth for preservation. This change is of course a function of shifting revenues since the start of the "home video era," but it has resulted in marked preservation improvements. In 1980 the following economic logic (reported in Boxoffice), about making separations for a color feature, seemed inarguable: "Just how many films are going to be worth $40,000 to a studio?," Myron Meisel of Mel Simon Productions asks frankly. "Alright, they are going to do it on Gone with the Wind or another picture of that dimension. But a studio executive who inherits 600 films in the vault, for example, won't spend that kind of money."170
This logic is not yet dead, but in 1980--as industry executives admit off the record--it was the rare studio that took adequate care of its surviving library; today, it is the rare company that fails to protect it, at least in overall terms, as the various programs to create separations for older color titles and the new storage facilities attest. Indeed, one measure of preservation progress may be the number of organizations that maintain ongoing archival preservation programs. True, preservation information on individual titles is not publicly available, and studios still have a significant number of unprotected titles (Sony Pictures, for instance, estimates that it still must convert to safety film about 50% of its 840 Columbia nitrate titles).171
One manifestation of the industry's attitude today are several partnerships with public archives--possible models for the future--that begin to answer some widely expressed concerns about a cultural heritage privately held. Most promising may be Sony Pictures' "Film and Tape Preservation Committee" which includes representatives from four archives (the George Eastman House, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive) and which has implemented a project to prioritize and restore Columbia Pictures titles.172 In a departure from previous archival copying of Hollywood features, Sony has paid the costs for laboratory work, generally including two sets of preprint preservation elements, one retained at the public archives, one at Sony. This cooperative project has shared skills held by the public archives and has allowed them to work not simply with nitrate-era material (as with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  at LC) but to venture also into safety-era black-and- white preservation (as with On the Waterfront  at MoMA) and safety-era color (as with The Guns of Navarone  at UCLA).
Universal Studios has a similar program with UCLA, facilitated by the Film Foundation, whose prominent filmmaker members have become another link between archives and studios. UCLA has also begun working with Sony/Columbia in evaluating the company's preservation holdings or best remaining material on various titles--a rare and promising instance of how the public interest can be represented in the preservation of privately held material of cultural value. Likewise promising is the Disney and Sony funding of Library of Congress staff positions to service their deposited and donated nitrate. Another innovative initiative, unusual in being directed at restoring independent film, is the collaboration among the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Whitney Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in the preservation and non-theatrical distribution of Warhol's films.173
The best results--which are still too rare--seem to arise from what Robert Rosen has cited as the "collaborative partnership for preservation...including the studios, public film archives, private consultants, specialized laboratories, government funding agencies, individual donors and support groups such as Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation."174 Into this mix, too, come private collectors and foreign archives, as is evident from several international restoration projects, such as Ben-Hur (1925), in which censored footage came from a collector in West Germany and lost two-color Technicolor footage from the Czechoslovak Film Archive; or the part-talking epic Noah's Ark (1928), where footage for the UCLA restoration came from the Turner Entertainment Company, the Library of Congress and the Cinèmathéque Française, sound from Vitaphone discs found at Warner Bros., and supplemental funding from American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) arranged through the Museum of Modern Art.175 The public benefits are obvious to anyone who views these restored works; private benefits include the creation of much improved products (in both these cases owned by the Turner Entertainment Company).
Such successes bridge the boundaries of public and private institutions. In light of their funding reductions, the major success of public archives may be their continued copying onto safety film of the most endangered nitrate titles, if at a rate that bodes badly for the future. The number of titles "rescued" in this sense does continue to grow. Some archives have drawn attention to this work with public festivals, notably UCLA's annual Festival of Preservation (in its fifth year) and Anthology Film Archives' annual Film Preservation Week and Dinner (in its second year).
Also being rescued are "lost," generally silent-era titles that survive only in foreign archive members of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), repatriated into U.S. archives through the critical and minimally funded efforts of the Washington, D.C., office of the National Center for Film and Video Preservation (NCFVP). For certain years (e.g., 1918 and 1923) the number of additional surviving American features that still exist only in foreign archives (often with no preservation back-up) almost matches the number that survive in this country. Figure 11 compares these percentages for silent features of 1919-28.
Since 1987, the NCFVP has negotiated and coordinated the repatriation of 745,000 feet of nitrate, representing 460 American shorts and features. Among the features were Maurice Tourneur's Alias Jimmy Valentine (1915; recovered from Australia), the Clara Bow feature Capital Punishment (1925; from the Netherlands), and the earliest surviving feature directed by an African American, Oscar Micheaux's Within Our Gates (1919; from Spain).176 The opening up of former Eastern Bloc countries provides opportunities in this regard but also urgency, because worsening economic conditions are forcing their FIAF archives to scale back to only the most pressing activities--which does not generally include copying American film.
Encouraging too is the formalization of cooperation among U.S. public and private archivists (of both film and video) through the two-year-old Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) which meets yearly and publishes a bi-monthly newsletter to exchange information and expertise about preservation.177
Other changes of attitude, discussed above, might be counted as progress. Among these, the most important are (1) the shift away from quantity measurements toward quality standards in archival laboratory work (and a corollary interest in saving usable nitrate after copying), (2) the increasing understanding of the importance of storage conditions in preservation, and (3) the growing recognition of the value of film types beyond the Hollywood fiction feature and of smaller-scale archives to represent them. If public- sector archivists are understandably reluctant to classify such changes as "successes," that is because each of them brings new problems.
[Figure 11: American Feature Films (1919-28) in U.S. and Foreign Archives (PDF, 144KB) (Based on working lists of FIAF-member holdings)]178
11. Toward a National Program
One hundred years after Edison's experiments with kinetoscopes, film has evolved far beyond its initial role as peepshow entertainment. As the over 100 submissions to this study have made clear, motion pictures have become popular memory, art form, historical document, market commodity, anthropological record, political force and medium for disseminating American culture around the world. A narrow "entertainment" definition of film no longer matches the diverse concerns of scholars, students, advocacy groups, social planners, ethnic communities, and the broader American society. To best serve the public interest, a national program must recognize the evolving applications for American film as well as current needs of users, copyright holders, and the many types of institutions throughout the United States that have motion pictures of cultural and historic significance. Further complicating the problem is that film, far more fragile than stone monuments or even sixteenth-century printed books, decays within a few years of its making, if it is not properly stored. Thus any action to save older films for future generations has to be taken soon, if it is to be taken at all.
Given the enormity and urgency of the task, the policy challenge is not just figuring out how to pay for more laboratory copying of deteriorating films but also addressing the changing context of film preservation. The current level of support--a patchwork of federal money, foundation grants, and donations--only chips away at the problem. Present public programs, developed over a decade ago, have not been rethought in terms of the expanding constituency for film.
There is no federal program, for example, working to enrich education by improving the circulation of publicly preserved films for instruction and scholarship. Similarly, there is no national framework for improving film storage, the factor shown by recent scientific research to be most critical in insuring the long-term life of film. Encouraging filmmakers to take care of their own works, a preventive measure that would stave off future preservation problems, fits nowhere in the current picture, even in the federal grants to filmmakers. Current laws provide little incentive for forging public-private partnerships to restore valued films, or indeed for doing film preservation at all.
Recent asset protection efforts by the industry suggest the substantial investment required to prolong film survival. But it also raises questions of the duplication of effort among public and studio archives and the redirection of public priorities now that the industry sees value in preserving its own works. What should be done about films--the "orphans" singled out in testimony--that are not now benefiting from such programs? The orphans now left to chance include news footage, documentaries, independent features, and avant-garde films. Existing public mechanisms are not adequately capturing or preserving these materials, and it is unclear, at this point, that commercial forces will ever fuel their preservation. In 1991, the French government recognized the public responsibility to preserve film culture and announced a $160 million package to restore all surviving French nitrate films.179 As Frederick Wiseman warns, the current U.S. efforts could be the equivalent of documenting nineteenth-century America by collecting its best-selling novels.180 We may be neglecting what will be of most interest to later generations.
In mapping the current landscape of film preservation, this report suggests several major themes to be explored, integrated, and prioritized into a national film preservation program, to be developed within the next twelve months:
The Librarian of Congress, and the National Film Preservation Board, urge those interested in preserving America's film heritage to think about imaginative but realistic approaches for addressing these broad needs, as well as to provide additional information and perspective on the topics addressed by this summary report, the public testimony, and the submissions. Written comments received by September 30, 1993, will be folded into the next stage of the planning process. Comments should be addressed to: Steven Leggett, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540.
(1)Public Law 102-307 (June 26, 1992), Title II, Sec. 203; codified as 2 U.S.C. 179. Return to Text
(2)Variety, February 17, 1988, p. 30. Return to Text
(3)See, for instance, Bob Fisher, "Are Movies Forever? If Not, Why Not?" On Production 1 (March/April 1992):36-8; Frank Thompson, "Fade Out: What's Being Done To Save Our Motion Picture Heritage?" American Film 16 (August 1991): 34-8, 46; "Editorial: Fade, Cut, Vanish," Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1983, Section II, p. 4; "Editorial: The Lost Picture Show," New York Times, January 30, 1981, p. A26. Return to Text
(4)Each of these film types has advocates. See, for instance, written submissions from the Council on International Nontheatrical Events (Vol. 4, pp. 112-18) and the International Documentary Association (pp. 189-92) on newsreels and documentaries; from Anthology Film Archives (pp. 21-2) and the Pacific Film Archive (pp. 323-5) on experimental or avant-garde films; from the Bishop Museum (pp. 40-2) and the Smithsonian's Human Studies Film Archives (pp. 174-80) on regional history and anthropological films; from the American Archives of the Factual Film (pp. 10-11) and Prelinger Associates (pp. 333-5) on advertising, educational, corporate films; from the New York Public Library (pp. 297-312) on dance films; and from the Japanese American National Museum (pp. 199-203), the Oregon Historical Society (pp. 321-2) and Northeast Historic Film (pp. 315-20) on home movies. Return to Text
(5)In 1980, this program--funded through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and administered by the American Film Institute (AFI)--distributed $514,215; in 1992, it distributed $355,600. Over those same years, laboratory costs for copying a 90-minute black-and-white silent film have increased from approximately $3,234 to approximately $13,730 (according to UCLA Film and Television Archive estimates), a two-and-a-half times increase after adjustment for inflation. For discussion of the AFI-NEA program, see Section 6.B.1; for discussion of laboratory costs, see Section 6.B.3. Return to text
(6)While the origin of this statistic is impossible to trace, it was not pure invention. In the late 1970s, Larry Karr, then archivist for the American Film Institute, loosely verified the figure by comparing copyright statistics with surviving film lists, including those from foreign archives. He concluded that of the approximately 21,000 U.S. feature films produced before 1950, 48% had been lost; see Larry Karr, "The American Situation," in Problems of Selection in Film Archives (Karlovy-Vary, Czechoslovakia: FIAF Symposium, 1980), 57, 73. See also Karr, letter to Anthony Slide (March 3, 1991), quoted in Slide, Nitrate Won't Wait: A History of Film Preservation in the United States (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1992), 5. Return to text
(7)For research on The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1931-1940 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), the AFI Catalog staff were able to view 79% of the 5,250 feature films produced in America in those ten years and to confirm the existence of more. Their experience reinforces the expectation that losses in the sound era are most severe among independent productions. Of the major studio features (from Columbia, MGM, Paramount, RKO, Twentieth Century-Fox, Warner Bros., Universal, and the distributor United Artists), 91% were viewed or confirmed to survive in U.S. studio vaults or public archives. Among minor studios and independent productions, 62% were confirmed to survive. These are minimum survival figures. Additional titles certainly survive among private collectors and in foreign archives. The quality of this surviving material is another matter: A number of these titles probably exist only as 16mm television prints. (Figures provided by AFI Catalog editors Patricia King Hanson and Alan Gevinson.) Return to text
(8)These rates are approximate percentages of titles that survive in complete form, computed from unpublished working lists of holdings of the members of FIAF (International Federation of Film Archives). An additional 3.5% of silent feature titles (1914-28) survive as fragments and incomplete prints. In a reversal of the situation in the 1930s, the major studio features of the silent era seem to have a lower survival rate than independent productions, whose frequent distribution on a "state's rights" basis resulted in more opportunities for prints to survive across the country. Return to text
(9)Soundtrack preservation, long neglected, is an emerging area of concern. See the summary of the session "New Sound Restoration Technologies" at the December 1992 Association of Moving Image Archivists conference, AMIA Newsletter 19 (March 1993): 10-11. Return to text
(10)In this context, the term "preprint" refers to any sort of film material used in the process of making a viewing print. Archivists protect the earliest surviving generation by making a duplicate ("dupe") negative for striking viewing prints (or a "fine grain master positive" for making next generation duplicate negatives). Especially for silent films, which generally survive only as projection prints, archivists must work backward to create the preprint negative or master positive. For color films, the master preprint negative is often known as an internegative, the master positive as an interpositive. Return to text
(11)See, for instance, the submission from Michael Friend, Academy Film Archive, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, pp. 1-4. Return to text
(12)Several submissions argue the need to include paper records in preservation plans; see the letter (pp. 269-70) from the AFI Catalog editors (Patricia King Hanson and Alan Gevinson) about production records, and those from the International Film Music Society (pp. 193-4) and Craig Spaulding (Screen Archives Entertainment; pp. 342-5) about film music manuscripts. Return to text
(13)See, for instance, the submission from the New York Public Library (pp. 297-312) regarding films in its Donnell Media Center. UCLA's collection of early 1930s Paramount prints became conservation copies when MCA/Universal (the copyright owner) found some of them to be superior to the studio's best surviving safety preprints made in the 1950s (Bob O'Neil, interview, January 6, 1993). Similarly, several Library of Congress copyright deposit prints from Warner Bros. were found to hold "lost" magnetic stereo soundtracks; see L.A. hearing, p. 93. Return to text
(14)For a thorough examination of colorization issues, see the report by the Register of Copyrights, Technological Alterations to Motion Pictures and Other Audiovisual Works: Implications for Creators, Copyright Owners, and Consumers (Washington, D.C.: Copyright Office, 1989). Return to text
(15)Sony Corporation of Japan purchased Columbia Pictures with its film library in 1989. Matsushita Electrical Industrial Company of Japan purchased MCA, Inc., including the back library of Universal Pictures and many Paramount films, in 1990. Return to text
(16)See, for instance, testimony by Gray Ainsworth, MGM, and by Philip Murphy, Paramount, L.A. hearing, pp. 54-5, 59-60. Return to text
(17)See, for instance, Bob Gitt, "Preservation of Early Color Film: Introduction, An Overview of Preservation," in Four Tasks of Film Archives (Tokyo: Film Center of the National Museum of Modern Art, 1990), 145. Return to text
(18)There is a confusing array of technical names for acetate. It is of several types, notably the older cellulose diacetate (almost never used professionally in the United States and primarily found in 16mm amateur films after 1923 and in other unusual silent-film gauges, especially 28mm) and cellulose triacetate (in 35mm professional use from 1948). Acetate is also sometimes called cellulose ester, although this can be misleading in two ways: Nitrate and polyester film are also esters (a compound resulting from the reaction of an acid with an alcohol), and "Estar" is Eastman Kodak's trade name for its polyester-base film. See William E. Lee and Charleton C. Bard, "The Stability of Kodak Professional Motion-Picture Film Bases," SMPTE Journal 97 (November 1988): 911-14; Karel A.H. Brems, "The Archival Quality of Film Bases," SMPTE Journal 97 (December 1988): 991-3. Return to text
(19)A negative for The Great Train Robbery held at the Library of Congress includes portions of Edwin S. Porter's original camera negative, although other portions have been replaced, probably a few years after 1903 but before edge-coding allows for precise dating (Paul Spehr, interview, May 3, 1993). Return to text
(20)Spontaneous combustion in a reel of decomposed nitrate film has been achieved at temperatures as low as 106oF but only after keeping the film wrapped in insulation to retain the heat of decomposition for 17 days; see James W. Cummings, Alvin C. Hutton & Howard Silfin, "Spontaneous Ignition of Decomposing Cellulose Nitrate Film," SMPTE Journal 54 (March 1950): 268-74. In the world outside of laboratory tests, most nitrate fires have occurred through human carelessness. Return to text
(21)UCLA Film and Television Archive, for instance, regularly screens nitrate copies for the public; see Jess Daily, "The Care and Handling of Hazardous Nitrate Film at UCLA's Unique Projection Facilities," SMPTE Journal 99 (June 1990): 453-6. For discussion of the pros and cons of saving nitrate after copying, see the L.A. hearing, pp. 38-40, 96-100. For discussion of this issue among international archivists, see "Panel Discussion," in Four Tasks of Film Archives (Tokyo: Film Center of the National Museum of Modern Art, 1990), 123-5. Return to text
(22)Currently it costs over $1,100 to dispose of a 15-gallon drum (holding 80% water and 20% nitrate film) in a way that meets national environmental (EPA) and health (OSHA) regulations. Thus, at least in small quantities, nitrate can cost over $40 a pound just to throw away. (A 1,000-foot reel weighs about five pounds but loses weight as it deteriorates.) These costs are dramatically higher now than at the start of the 1980s, when disposal of the same 15-gallon drum cost about $300. (Paul Spehr, interview, May 3, 1993; 1991 estimates from an Eastern Chemical Waste Systems bid to the Library of Congress.) Return to text
(23)Study of vinegar syndrome was begun in Great Britain at Manchester Polytechnic; see N.S. Allen, and others, "Degradation of Historic Cellulose Triacetate Cinematographic Film: Influence of Various Film Parameters and Prediction of Archival Life," Journal of Photographic Science 36 (1988): 194-8. (This study notes a link between the onset of vinegar syndrome and metal ion contamination, reinforcing anecdotal evidence among archivists that the most serious vinegar syndrome is occurring first in magnetic soundtracks.) Continued research in the United States has been conducted at the Image Permanence Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology; see P.Z. Adelstein, J.M. Reilly, D.W. Nishimura, and C.J. Erbland, "Stability of Cellulose Ester Base Photographic Film," SMPTE Journal 101 (May 1992): 336-53. See also the testimony from James M. Reilly, Director, Image Permanence Institute, D.C. hearing, pp. 115-20. Return to text
(24)For discussion of the early problems with polyester, see Ralph N. Sargent, Preserving the Moving Image (Washington, D.C.: Corporation for Public Broadcasting/NEA, 1974), 12-13. On its availability, see discussions at the L.A. hearing, pp. 37-8, 42-3, and at the D.C. hearing, p. 121. Polyester also meets some resistance because it requires heat splicing, not solvent splicing. Return to text
(25)Adding to the confusing terminology is the fact that Technicolor, as a company, switched to producing dye-coupler prints since shutting down U.S. dye-transfer processing in 1975. The only currently operating Technicolor dye-transfer plant was built in 1977 in Beijing, China. See the submission from L. Jeffrey Selznick (pp. 220-4) about the Louis B. Mayer Foundation's interesting experimental efforts to employ this plant in American film preservation. Return to text
(26)Robert Harris submission, pp. 163-9. Return to text
(27)See the written submission from Eastman Kodak, pp. 127-37. Return to text
(28)This is the approximate estimate from two industry executives. Bob Gitt, of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, suggests a figure closer to $40,000 for correctly timed master positive separations for the same length feature. Full testing, by making an internegative from the separations and a first answer print, would double these costs. It is also possible--and much more common--to make a sample test print of a few hundred feet, to "inspect" the separations (for about $700), or to combine them on a video telecine. Making a new print from separations is also not inexpensive, involving the same procedures and costs as full testing. (Bob Gitt, interview, May 17, 1993.) Return to text
(29)The best discussions of color fading remain those published more than a decade ago. See Bill O'Connell, "Fade Out," Film Comment 15 (September/October 1979): 11-18; Paul C. Spehr, "Fading, Fading, Faded: The Color Film Crisis," American Film 5 (November 1979): 56-61; and Richard Patterson, "The Preservation of Color Films," American Cinematographer 62 (July 1981): 694-720 [Part 1] and (August 1981): 792-822 [Part 2]. Return to text
(30) The Library of Congress' first cold-and-dry film storage vaults, in Landover, Maryland, have been in operation since 1976. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science's smaller facility opened in 1991. Return to text
(31) SMPTE has no current motion picture storage "standards"; these proposals--revisions of SMPTE RP 131--are expected to be published for comment in the September 1993 SMPTE Journal (Sherwin Becker, interview, June 16, 1993). See also ANSI IT.19-1992, "Imaging Media--Processed Safety Photographic Film--Storage."Return to text
(32) Stephen Gong, "National Film and Video Storage: Survey Report and Results," Film History 1 (1987): 132. Return to text
(33) By the Image Permanence Institute definition, vinegar syndrome is reached at a free acidity level of O.5. Calculations begin from newly manufactured film stock. See The IPI Storage Guide for Acetate Film (Rochester, N.Y.: Image Permanence Institute, 1993). Return to text
(34) Humidity can also be managed in the "microenvironment" by sealing reels of film in airtight bags. There are, however, questions about this process as well, since the bags also trap gasses given off by deterioration. Return to text
(35) Testimony from Philip Murphy, D.C. hearing, p. 112. Return to text
(36) Accelerated aging studies by the Image Permanence Institute suggest, however, that limited time out of storage is not in itself damaging. For instance, at the 60 degrees F /40%RH example noted on Figure 2, five days or less per year out-of-storage (into 75 degrees F/60%RH conditions) has no measurable effect on the onset of vinegar syndrome; but with 90 days out-of-storage per year vinegar syndrome appears in 50 instead of 100 years. See The IPI Storage Guide for Acetate Film. Removing film from sub-freezing storage is also not necessarily harmful, according to D.F. Kopperl and C.C. Bard in "Freeze/Thaw Cycling of Motion Picture Films," SMPTE Journal 94 (August 1985): 826-7. Return to text
(37) Current federal law will prohibit the primary film cleaning solution, called "1,1,1 trichloroethane," at the end of 1995, and, practically speaking, it will become unavailable by mid-1994. The water-based substitutes that have been produced can be harmful to nitrate film. The wetgate printing solution "perchloroethylene" remains in use (and has an active lobby because of its importance to the dry cleaning industry) but is a known carcinogen and can also be expected to be banned (Pete Comandini, interview, April 15, 1993). See also testimony by Bob O'Neil, Universal, L.A. hearing, pp. 89-90; and John L. Baptista, "Motion Pictures," SMPTE Journal 102 (March 1993): 289-90. Return to text
(38) Current videotape carries even less information; see Paramount Pictures' demonstration videotape, D.C. hearing, pp. 113-15. Return to text
(39) See the submission from Sony Pictures Entertainment, pp. 352-5. Return to text
(40) The focus here is on organizations having original or best-quality film materials. Excluded, for the most part, are organizations that carry only commercially acquired copies. For the remainder of this report, the term "public archive" is used to refer to archives in either the public or nonprofit sector. Return to text
(41) Industry sources generally divide film studios by size into (1) the "majors," companies that produce, finance and distribute their own films as well as those by independent filmmakers, (2) the "mini-majors," firms that handle a smaller number of films, and (3) the independents. This report instead looks at studios with film libraries of several hundred titles or more, and includes firms not actively engaged in new theatrical production.
In 1991 the majors produced 150 features, roughly one-third of the total U.S.-produced 35mm theatrical releases for the year. For production statistics, see 1993 International Motion Picture Almanac, Barry Monush, ed. (New York: Quigley Publishing Company, 1993), 19A. Return to text
(42) With the widespread introduction of sound to motion pictures in 1929, silent films seemed particularly out-of-date. Film lore is spiced with stories about silent films, discarded or abandoned by their owners, that survive only through prints salvaged by collectors. See, for example, Ch. 4, "Thanks to the Film Collectors," in Anthony Slide, Nitrate Won't Wait: A History of Film Preservation in the United States (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1992). Return to text
(43) In May 1993, Wax: Or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees (1992) became the first film transmitted on the Internet, a global computer network linking millions of academic and scientific users (John Markoff, "Cult Film Is a First on Internet," New York Times, May 24, 1993, p. C3). Return to text
(44) Harold Vogel, Entertainment Industry Economics: A Guide for Financial Analysts (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 48-9. Return to text
(45) With the release of videogames developed from films such as Hook and Bram Stoker's Dracula, Sony's library is becoming literal software; see Peter M. Nichols, "Home Video: More Data and More Speed Are Letting Real Movie Stars Do More in the World of Interactive Games," New York Times, May 13, 1993, p. B4. Return to text
(46) See in chronological order: Stephen J. Sansweet, "Fox, Latest To Put a Value on Film Library, Appraises 1,000 Movies at $375 Million," Wall Street Journal, November 26, 1982, p. 7; Sandra Salmans, "The Value of Film Libraries: A Takeover Attraction," New York Times, April 3, 1984, p. D1+; Laura Landro, "Value of MGM/UA's Library of Films Is Center of Dispute Over Price of Unit," Wall Street Journal, February 20, 1985, p. 26; Alan Citron, "Value in the Vault," Los Angeles Times, May 29, 1990, p. D1+; "Analysts Bullish on Pic Libraries," Daily Variety, August 15, 1991, p. 16; and Kirk Honeycutt, "Classics Pay Their Way in Pre-Vid Theatrical Runs: After P&A, Old Films Crank Out New Profits," Hollywood Reporter, June 4, 1992, p. 1+. Return to text
(47) As reported in studio interviews, submissions, and testimony. The count excludes television programming. Return to text
(48) Joseph McBride, "Par Dusting Off Its Heritage: Studio Mounts Re-Release Campaign Following Program To Restore Its TV, Pic Classics," Daily Variety, April 27, 1990. p. 1, 34, 43; Charles Fleming, "Paramount Negatives Hit New Low," Variety, June 10, 1991, p. 1; and testimony by Philip Murphy, Paramount, D.C. hearing, pp. 111-13. Return to text
(49) For a Paramount-produced color film, for example, the "preservation master set" generally consists of the original camera negative, color separations, an interpositive, and a separate sound track recording. Return to text
(50) See discussion at the L.A. hearing, pp. 61-3. Return to text
(51) See Robert Harris, D.C. hearing, pp. 59-62, and George Stevens, Jr., D.C. hearing, p. 11. Return to text
(52) Paula Parisi, "Warners Spending Millions to Revive 26 Classic Films," Hollywood Reporter, May 11, 1990, p. 1+. Return to text
(53) Kirk Honeycutt, "Sony's Preservation Push on Display at UCLA," Hollywood Reporter, September 28, 1992, p. 6, 17-18; Thomas M. Pryor, "Pic Preservation Must Be of Paramount Importance," Daily Variety, May 3, 1990, p. 2, 24; Bruce Haring, "Film Preservation Efforts Retarded by Lack of Coin," Daily Variety, September 28, 1990, p. 8. Return to text
(54) Clearly time is running out for the oldest material. At the 1992 conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, Twentieth Century Fox confirmed plans, announced in Daily Variety (October 10, 1992), to digitize (transfer to electronic form) its Movietone News (1919-1963), some 60 million feet of nitrate and acetate film. To convert the collection to safety film, the studio estimated, would take the better part of a decade, by which time some of the footage would have decomposed. Return to text
(55) For the new value of outtakes and trailers for videotape and laserdisc releases, see "Restored Material from Cutting-Room Floor," Los Angeles Times, August 2, 1991, p. F24. Return to text
(56) See discussions at the L.A. hearing, pp. 63-4. Return to text
(57) See written submission by George Lucas, Lucasfilm, pp. 213-4. Return to text
(58) Victor Nunez, interview, April 16, 1993, and Sam Gowan (executive producer for Ruby in Paradise), interview, April 15, 1993. Return to text
(59) Frederick Wiseman, D.C. hearing, pp. 12-13, 14-18. Return to text
(60) See Jonas Mekas, "Notes on the Preservation of Independently Made Films," Report: The 1979 National Conference of Media Arts Centers (New York: Foundation of Independent Video and Film, 1979), 15-16. Return to text
(61) Gordon Hitchens, "Anthology Film Archives' Heroic Task To Save Old Pic Negatives," Variety, August 5, 1978, p. 6. See also written submission by Samuel Sherman, Independent-International Pictures, pp. 186-8. Return to text
(62) See testimony at L.A. hearing by Stephen Gong, Pacific Film Archive, pp 11-14, and by Betsy McLane, International Documentary Association, pp. 108-10. A similar point was made in The Independent Film Community: A Report on the Status of Independent Film in the United States, Peter Feinstein, ed. (New York: Committee on Film and Television Resources and Services, 1977), 71. Return to text
(63) With positive reversal stock the film in the camera, when processed, may be used as a release print (that is, no negative is needed, thus cutting down the cost). The project has enabled Canyon Cinema to strike new prints of eight films; the filmmakers retain new preprint material. At this date, no continuing source of funds has been found. (Dominique Angerame, interview, May 11, 1993.) Return to text
(64) For more information on the estate planning for artists with AIDS, see the booklet Future Safe (1992), available from the Alliance for the Arts, 330 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10026. Return to text
(65) Footage 89: North American Film and Video Sources, Richard Prelinger and Celeste R. Hoffnar, eds. (New York: Prelinger Associates, 1989), A-7. Return to text
(66) Larry Urbanski, interview, April 26, 1993, and written submission from Moviecraft, pp. 233-6. Return to text
(67) Before this 1992 amendment, U.S. copyright holders had to file an application for copyright renewal (see Section 8). For a discussion of the possible impact of the 1992 copyright legislation on stock footage operations, see Rick Prelinger, "Automatic Copyright or Wrongs," The Independent 15 (June 1992): 8. Return to text
(68) Computed from total footage statistics reported in Stephen Gong, "National Film and Video Storage: Survey Report and Results," Film History 1 (1987): 128-9. This study gives the total footage held by the 28 responding archives as 1.03 billion feet; the five largest report 917 million feet. Return to text
(69) Actuality film is unstaged footage shot on location as the event occurs. Return to text
(70) After the current transfer from the Department of Defense is completed, the National Archives expects to acquire few additional government films. Government agencies have, for the most part, switched to video production. Return to text
(71) FIAF (Federation Internationale des Archives du Film), founded in 1938, is an international organization through which public film archives share information and develop standards for cataloging and preservation practices. The four fiction film archives have long been active in FIAF as full members. The U.S. archives participating on a provisional or associate basis are the Academy Film Archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Anthology Film Archives, the Human Studies Film Archives of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Pacific Film Archive, and the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. Return to text
(72) Mary Lea Bandy, interview, April 28, 1993. Return to text
(73) Edward Richmond, letters to authors, April 22 and May 24, 1993. Return to text
(74) Edward Richmond, letter to authors, April 22, 1993. Return to text
(75) Jan-Christopher Horak, interview, May 6, 1993. Return to text
(76) MoMA's new nitrate facility of 34 vaults is designed to store film at 45 degrees F and 35% RH (Mary Lea Bandy, interviews, April 28 and June 14, 1993). Storage expert David Wexler reported that Lorimar built a small nitrate vault in the 1980s, but that the storage area was converted to other uses (interview, April 28, 1993). Return to text
(77) See NARA's written submission, pp. 247-68, and testimony, D.C. hearing, pp. 88-90. Return to text
(78) Edward Richmond, interview, May 3, 1993. The thick walls of the nitrate facility provide some degree of natural insulation. UCLA's preservation masters are currently housed in a state-of-the-art commercial facility. Return to text
(79) The exact number of specialist archives with programs devoted to film is difficult to estimate. The Association of Moving Image Archivists attracts participants from some 50 tax-exempt organizations. Looking at the pool of AFI-NEA preservation grant applicants from 1979-90 yields a larger figure: 77. The 1992 Member Directory of the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (Oakland, CA: NAMAC, 1992) reports that 90 members (68% of the 132 respondents) have collections of films, videotapes or library materials. Return to text
(80) Nitrate holdings are shown in Figure 5. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Anthology Film Archives, National Center for Jewish Film, Oregon Historical Society, Pacific Film Archive, Southwest Film/Video Archives, and Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research have some nitrate film. Return to text
(81) See, for instance, the written submission from Paul Eisloeffel, Nebraska Historical Society, pp. 294-6. Return to text
(82) See, for example, the testimony by Jan-Christopher Horak of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, D.C. hearing, pp. 68-72, and by John Ptak of the National Center for Film and Video Preservation, L.A. hearing, pp. 17-20. Return to text
(83) Jay Richiuso of the American Association for State and Local History bases these estimates on the number of local history organizations reported in the regularly published AASLH Directory. In 1959 the Directory listed 1,566 organizations; in 1990, over 13,000. The Directory includes a small number of Canadian organizations. Teresa Brinati of the Society of American Archivists recalls no recent survey of members' film collections. (Interviews, April 29 and April 30, 1993.) Return to text
(84) Richard Prelinger, D.C. hearing, p. 19-20. Prelinger's guide includes some Canadian and Mexican coverage, but is heavily weighted toward the United States. In preparing Footage 89 and its supplement, Prelinger and Hoffnar surveyed every "actual or suspected repository of moving image material that we could think of in North America," excluding media centers and public libraries with commercially acquired videotapes and films. Counting 500 to 600 corporate archives, Prelinger suspects that there are some 3000 American sources with footage of documentary or cultural interest (Richard Prelinger, interview, May 5, 1993). Return to text
(85) Written submission by Gordon Olson, Grand Rapids Public Library, pp. 158-61. Return to text
(86) "Restoration...Slowly But Surely," American Cinematographer 67 (April 1986): 128. Dale Pollock ("Collectors: Film Heroes or Villains?" Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1983, p. 1) estimates that there are 30,000 to 50,000 film collectors in the United States. Return to text
(87) See, for example, written submission by Dennis Atkinson, pp. 37-9. Return to text
(88) Stephen Rebello, "State of Siege," American Film 9 (May 1984): 41-4. Return to text
(89) Paula Parisi, "Warners Spending Millions To Revive 26 Classic Films," Hollywood Reporter, May 11, 1990, p. 1+. Return to text
90 See hearing transcripts for L.A., pp. 67-8, 93-4, and for D.C., p. 8. Return to text
(91) This 1992 Library of Congress survey attempted to locate among members of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) preprint materials for the first 75 titles chosen for the National Film Registry. No attempt was made to evaluate the quality of the preprint materials.
The Washington Office of the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute, through FIAF, has begun to identify lost American silent films in foreign archives and arrange for their transfer to U.S. archives (see Section 10). Return to text
(92) 17 U.S.C. Sec. 202. See also Melville B. Nimmer and David Nimmer, Nimmer on Copyright: A Treatise on the Law of Literary, Musical and Artistic Property, and the Protection of Ideas (New York: Matthew Bender, 1991) vol. 1, Sec. 2.03[C]. Return to text
(93) The discussions specifically allowed the archival copying of nitrate film. Through misinformation or transcription error, the report printed "1942" as the year ending the nitrate era. The language has been interpreted as extending to any archival film preservation.
(94) Formed within the AFI in 1983, the NCFVP began operations the next year, with Robert Rosen as its first director ("National Center Launches Initial Film & TV Preservation Efforts," Variety, May 29, 1985, p. 2). The NCFVP coordinates all preservation programs affiliated with the AFI. These include: (1) administrating the AFI-NEA grants program, (2) acquiring films for the AFI film collection (the custody of which is split among U.S. archives, with the Library of Congress holding the largest portion), (3) developing the National Moving Image Database (NAMID), and (4) preparing the American Film Institute Catalog of American films. The NCFVP also serves as secretariat for the Film Foundation and the Association of Moving Image Archivists. Excluding funds administered through the AFI-NEA preservation grants program, the NCFVP has received, over the last 10 years, $2.6 million in federal support. Like the AFI, the NCFVP has offices in Los Angeles (handling coordination, NAMID, the AFI Catalog) and Washington, D.C. (administering preservation grants and AFI film acquisition).
The American Film Institute, founded in 1967 to promote American film, also supports a film school, exhibition programs, and other public outreach operations. Its activities are funded by federal and foundation grants, private donations, and revenue-generating activities. For background on the AFI, see its em>Annual Reports and George Stevens, Jr., "The Founding Director Grades the Film Institute at Age 12-1/2," New York Times, January 6, 1980, p. D11. The AFI has not been without its critics; see, for example, Emily Yoffe, "Popcorn Politics," Harper's 267 (December 1983): 13-22, and Amy Taubin, "Burnt Bridges: Why Our American Film Institute Doesn't Work," Village Voice, December 8, 1988, pp. 83-92. Return to text
(95) Thus the NCFVP functions as an agent or contractor for the NEA; it is not required to raise additional "matching" dollars for the preservation grant program. Return to text
(96) Grants funds cannot be applied to film-to-videotape transfer. Return to text
(97)All grant dollars are unadjusted for inflation. The institutions abbreviated in the header are: Anthology Film Archives, the International Museum of Photography and Film at George Eastman House, the Museum of Modern Art (Department of Film), the National Center for Jewish Film, the New York Public Library Dance Collection, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive. For a complete list of institutions receiving funding, see footnote 99. Institutional percentages total over 100% due to rounding. Return to text
(98) Based on data collected during interviews with archivists, January-May 1993. Similar results were obtained by Stephen Gong, "National Film and Video Storage: Survey Report and Results," Film History 1 (1987): 127-36, and a 1989 unpublished NCFVP survey by Gregory Lukow. Return to text
(99) Recipients are: The Academy Foundation (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), Anthology Film Archives, Archivo General de Puerto Rico, Astoria Motion Picture & Television Center, Center for Southern Folklore, Chicago Historical Society, Colorado Historical Society, Duke University, Florida A&M University Black Archives, Grand Rapids Public Library, International Film Foundation, Institute for Intercultural Communications, International Museum of Photography and Film at George Eastman House, Iowa State University's American Archives of the Factual Film, Louis Wolfson II Media History Center, Memphis State University, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of New Mexico, National Center for Jewish Film, New York Public Library Dance Collection, Northeast Historic Film, Oregon Historical Society, Puerto Rico Department of Education, Rhode Island Historical Society, Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Southwest Film/Video Archives, University of Alaska, the UC Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive, UCLA Film and Television Archive, University of Delaware, University of Kentucky Library, University of South Carolina, University of Texas at Austin, Wayne State University, Whatcom Institute for Jewish Research, and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Return to text
(100) See, for example, the written submission from the Grand Rapids Public Library, pp. 158-61. Return to text
(101) These estimates were provided by Susan Dalton, NCFVP Washington Office. The Washington Office supplied all grant information in this section. The categories avant garde, documentary, Yiddish-language, and dance include some silent films. Data for titles copied before 1979 were not available. Return to text
(102) Testimony by Brian O'Doherty, National Endowment for the Arts, D.C. hearing, p. 44. Return to text
(103) On the need for broader guidelines, "without the art strictures," in federal film preservation funding, see the written submission from Northeast Historic Film, pp. 315-20. Return to text
(104) These rough estimates are based on average laboratory cost figures for 1980 and 1992, provided by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. See Section 6.B.3 for details on the laboratory operations and assumptions that these figures reflect. Return to text
(105) The NARA in-house laboratory also handles duplication requests from the public. Return to text
(106) The LC film preservation efforts began in the late 1940s in a project with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to convert the "paper prints" to 16mm film. The paper prints, some 3000 of the earliest surviving American films, were printed on paper as photographs for deposit as copyright protection largely before 1912 (when the first copyright provisions for motion pictures were enacted). The first LC appropriation specifically for film preservation was in 1958. (Paul Spehr, memo to authors, April 16, 1993.) Return to text
(107) All figures in dollars. The inflation-adjusted figures are in constant FY 1983 dollars (calculated using the GNP implicit price deflator). Return to text
(108) After fires at its Suitland, Maryland, storage facility in 1977 and 1978, the National Archives received support to accelerate copying of federal nitrate holdings. On the importance of expediting preservation of federal agency film, see the Comptroller General's report to Congress, Valuable Government-Owned Motion Picture Films Are Rapidly Deteriorating (Washington, D.C.: General Accounting Office, June 19, 1979), LCD 78-113. For industry coverage of the nitrate fires, see "Can Valuable Historical Films Be Entrusted to U.S. Archives?" Variety, January 3, 1979, p. 52; and "U.S. Film Archive Fires: Neglect & Goof," Variety, January 22, 1980, p. 7. Return to text
(109) These figures reflect laboratory costs only and exclude staff and facilities (Paul Spehr, memo to authors, April 16, 1993). Return to text
(110) NARA does not have a specific budget line for film preservation copying. NARA supports film-to-film copying and video transfer from the same funds, and moving image preservation is subsumed within the overall institutional preservation allocation. The 1992 NARA expenditure for laboratory copying of film and videotape was $775,000. (William Murphy, interview, April 19, 1993.) Return to text
(111) There are probably fewer than ten recognized specialist preservation labs now operating in the United States, although other firms have expressed interest in this field. The Association of Moving Image Archivists is currently compiling a directory of commercial preservation laboratory facilities. Return to text
(112) See testimony by Ralph Sargent, Film Technology, L.A. hearing, pp. 29-32. Return to text
(113) UCLA estimates that, in 1992, preserving a 90-minute sound film (from a print) averaged $4000 more than a silent film. The estimate includes transfer time, re-recording the optical track negative, and an extra tracking pass of the final print, bringing the total to $17,700. The duplication of original picture and track negatives averages roughly $25,000 to $30,000 but can be more. For the recent Museum of Modern Art/Sony restoration of On the Waterfront, a black-and-white acetate film, the cost was $49,000 (Peter Williamson, interview, January 13, 1993).
Color costs are generally higher. In 1991, George Eastman House estimated the cost of their Northwest Mounted Police Technicolor project at $45,000 [Frank Thompson, "Fade Out: What's Being Done To Save Our Film Heritage?," American Film 16 (August 1991): 37]. For the technical complexities of the UCLA-YCM restoration of Becky Sharp (1935), the first three-strip Technicolor feature, see Robert Gitt and Richard Dayton, "Restoring Becky Sharp," American Cinematographer 65 (November 1984): 99-106. Return to text
(114) The inflation-adjusted figures are in constant FY 1983 dollars (calculated using the GNP implicit price deflator). Return to text
(115) Estimates are for an 8,100-foot film requiring eight hours of preparation work; the dupe negative is step printed, one light (Edward Richmond and Bob Gitt, letter to authors, April 22, 1993). Return to text
(116) Written submission from Film Technology, pp. 145-8. Return to text
(117) For example, no U.S. preservation lab now has equipment for reproducing non-standard 28mm film onto standard 35mm; there has not been the sustained archival demand to support investment in this equipment. Single 28mm preservation copying jobs are now sent to Canada or Europe. Eastman House reports having 380 titles in 28mm. (Jan-Christopher Horak, interview, April 26, 1993.) Return to text
(118) Gregory Lukow, memo to authors, April 27, 1993. Return to text
(119) See the NCFVP's leaflet, The National Moving Image Database (November 1992) and the consultant's report on NAMID to Shirlee Haizlip (March 1, 1990). Return to text
(120) The public archives are: the American Archives of the Factual Film, Anthology Film Archives, Arts on Television, Canyon Cinema, Electronic Arts Intermix, Film-Makers' Cooperative, George Eastman House, Haleakala--the Kitchen, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas, Human Studies Film Archives, Long Beach Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, Southwest Film/Video Archives at Southern Methodist University, UC Berkeley Extension Media Center and Pacific Film Archive, UCLA Film and Television Archive, Video Data Bank of the Chicago Art Institute, and the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. NAMID has also received data from Turner Entertainment and Whole Toon Access. Return to text
(121) Margaret Byrne, interview, April 26, 1993. Return to text
(122) Data exchange is not automated; archives send machine-readable records by mail for uploading at the NCFVP. As of late April 1993, about one-third of the participants did not permit access to their records without prior permission. Return to text
(123) See testimony by Jan-Christopher Horak, D.C. hearing, p. 83, and the written submission from Edward Richmond, UCLA, pp. 362-5. Return to text
(124) See, for example, the written submission of the International Documentary Association, pp. 189-92. Return to text
(125) PL 102-307 (June 26, 1992), Title II, Sec. 201 and following, codified as 2 U.S.C. 179. Return to text
(126) The NHPRC grants are intended for unpublished archival materials, and thus are generally unavailable for collections of publicly distributed documentary films. It has funded a handful of projects involving documentary or actuality footage. (Laurie Baty, interview, April 19, 1993). Return to text
(127) Linda Loeb, interview, April 20, 1993. Iowa State University (American Archives of the Factual Film is in the library) and the Research Libraries of the New York Public Library have received grants for film collections. Return to text
(128) The NEH's new National Heritage Preservation Program, established in 1990, gives grants to improve housing, environmental control, security, lighting and fire-prevention systems for three-dimensional objects in "material culture collections important to the humanities." The program does not target libraries and archives. (Interview with Jeffrey Field, NEH Division of Preservation and Access, April 14, 1993.) Return to text
(129) State arts support is also waning. The National Center for Jewish Film reports that last year's grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council was one-twentieth of past levels. The New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), which until 1991 designated grants for preservation copying, is now, with its own support cut, switching to giving smaller amounts of unrestricted program funds. Thus while receiving fewer dollars overall, arts organizations can use them more flexibly. Program Director Deborah Silverfine fears that film preservation may be neglected as organizations struggle "to keep the doors open" (interview, May 5, 1993, and submission, pp. 313-19). For the general decline in state arts budgets, see Quynh Thai, "State Funding Fiasco: NY's Cuomo Singles Out Arts Budget for 56 Percent Cut," The Independent 14 (May 1991): 4, 6; Jon Burris, "No Silver Lining: States Announce Declining Arts Budgets," The Independent 14 (November 1991): 12, 14-15. Return to text
(130) See the Annual Reports of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Return to text
(131) To encourage greater educational access to documentaries, the MacArthur Library Program distributes videotapes of public affairs documentaries to public libraries. (Interview with Patricia Boero, program officer for the Foundation's media program, April 20, 1993.) On the MacArthur Foundation's interest in independent film, see its submission, pp. 215-16. Return to text
(132) Written submission from L. Jeffrey Selznick, Louis B. Mayer Foundation, pp. 220-4. Return to text
(133) Raffaele Donato, interview, May 5, 1993. See also written submission from Martin Scorsese, Film Foundation, pp. 141-4, and testimony by Josh Sapan, AMC, D.C. hearing, pp. 126-9. Return to text
(134) Among the many written submissions that discuss preservation under these terms, see, for instance, Tom Gunning's (for the Society for Cinema Studies), pp. 346-51. Return to text
(135) See, for instance, written submissions from members of the Committee for Film Preservation and Public Access, pp. 52-109. Return to text
(136) "Fair use" was developed in case law and first codified in the 1976 Copyright Act. It is a limitation on the rights of copyright owners when a work is used for certain purposes, "such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching...scholarship, or research"; 17 U.S.C. 107. Despite the codification, fair use exceptions are complex and ultimately determined by courts on a case-by-case basis after looking at several factors, including the effect of the use on the potential market value of the work. Return to text
(137) Where no copies have been sold and no theatrical or "trade release" of a film has taken place, it may be "unpublished." This is the status, for instance, of most home movies. Such films were protected in perpetuity under common law until the 1976 Copyright Act, which brought to unpublished works the same terms as published ones, but in no case could the copyright of a previously unpublished and unregistered work expire before 2002, or until the end of 2027 if published between 1978 and 2002. Return to text
(138) The Copyright Act of 1976 (effective January 1, 1978) established a single 75-year term of protection for works made for hire (e.g., studio films) and a lifetime-of-the-author-plus-50-years term for works created and owned by individuals. The 1992 Copyright Amendments Act (PL 102-307) provided an automatic 47-year second term for works copyrighted between 1964 and 1977, giving them full 75-year protection. (The 1992 act did provide incentives to make renewal advisable but without loss of copyright if it were not filed.) For a useful discussion of copyright as it relates to the preservation of printed materials, see Robert L. Oakley, Copyright and Preservation: A Serious Problem in Need of a Thoughtful Solution (Washington, D.C.: Commission on Preservation and Access, 1990). Return to text
(139) John Stanley, "Showdown Over McLintock! Rights," San Francisco Chronicle, May 2, 1993, p. D48. Return to text
(140) David Landis, "Wonderful Life Won't Air As Often," USA Today, June 15, 1993, p. A-1. Return to text
(141) The records of the U.S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress, containing over 25 million entries, are open to the public. On request, the Copyright Office will search its records regarding the copyright status of a particular work for $20-per-hour. Information on how to search the copyright status of a work is provided in Copyright Office Circulars 22 and 23. For help in determining the term of copyright of a particular film, see Circulars 1, 15, 15a and 15t. To request these circulars or to speak to a Copyright Information Specialist, call (202) 707-3000. Written requests should be addressed to the Copyright Office, LM 455, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20559. Return to text
(142) See testimony by Mary Lea Bandy, MoMA, and Paul Spehr, LC, D.C. hearing, pp. 82-3, 87. Return to text
(143) Robert Rosen, written submission, pp. 366-7; Stephen Gong, written submission, pp. 323-5. For further discussion of new demands being made on film archives, see Paolo Cherchi Usai, "Archive of Babel," Sight and Sound 59 (Winter 1989/1990): 48-50. Return to text
(144) Alan Lewis, Charles Mayn, and William Murphy, interview, December 12, 1992. The Library of Congress estimates that film and television producers seeking footage now account for over 60% of its moving image researchers (member report in 1993 FIAF conference packet, Mo i Rana, Norway). Return to text
(145) "Frame enlargements" reproduce the image as seen on screen and have become essential for serious film publications. Less scholarly film books are often illustrated with the more easily available "production stills," which are generally taken by a studio publicist on the movie set. See the D.C. hearing (pp. 104-5), the written submission by David Bordwell (pp. 43-4), and Kristin Thompson, "Report of the Ad-Hoc Committee of the Society for Cinema Studies: Fair Usage Publication of Film Stills," Cinema Journal 32 (Winter 1993): 2-20. Return to text
(146) For instance, see the description of its three-screen laserdisc installation in the submission from the Japanese American Historical Museum, pp. 199-203. Return to text
(147) See submissions from Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum, pp. 138-40; and Margaret Parsons, National Gallery of Art, pp. 292-3. Return to text
(148) For a discussion of 35mm print availability for older films in Britain, see Anthony Smith, "The Problem of the Missing Film," Sight and Sound 75 (Spring 1988): 84-6, and the written submission from Clyde Jeavons, British Film Institute, p. 45. Return to text
(149) Mary Lea Bandy, interview, January 13, 1993. Return to text
(150) See the March 8, 1993 submission from Robert Kolker (p. 207), which discusses this possibility. Return to text
(151) Currently $25 a month, plus a variable per-hour searching charge. As of January 1993, about 38,000 motion picture title records are available. Plans are underway to load this database into the University of California's union catalog, which is available without charge through the Internet. See the submission from Edward Richmond, UCLA Film and Television Archive, pp. 362-5. Return to text
(152) As of June 1993, about 94,000 film and television records are available. Return to text
(153) See the discussion at the L.A. hearing, pp. 88-96. Return to text
(154) Emily J. Laskin, William Horrigan, and Greg Beal, eds., The American Film Institute Guide to College Courses in Film and Television, 8th ed. (New York: ARCO/Simon & Schuster, 1990), xviii. For discussion of the role of archives in film scholarship and teaching, see the statement by Tom Gunning for the Society for Cinema Studies, D.C. hearing, pp. 25-8. Return to text
(155) See the submission from the Committee for Film Preservation and Public Access, pp. 52-78. Supplementary letters by committee members allude to such donor agreements; see, for example, letters by Gregory Luce (pp. 84-6) and Michael V. Rotello (p. 99). These submissions argue that such "exclusive rights" contracts will have the perverse long-term effect of preventing good copies of certain public domain titles from reaching the general public. Return to text
(156) For the appeals decision, see 902 F.2d. 1540 (Fed. Cir. 1990). The case is discussed in Paul M. Mahoney, Jr., "Transfer of Antique Films to the Library of Congress: Outright Gift, Dual Transaction, or Quid Pro Quo Under Section 170? Transamerica Corp. v. United States," Tax Lawyer 44 (Spring 1993): 957-66. Return to text
(157) See testimony by Mary Lea Bandy, MoMA, D.C. hearing, p. 80. Return to text
(158) This, of course, assumes that sufficient vault space is available. Return to text
(159) Estimated at the monthly rate of $175 per million feet (one thousand 1000-foot reels), an average of the rates quoted by three commercial nitrate facilities (two East Coast, one West Coast). Public archive holdings exclude the recent Disney deposit at the Library of Congress and 1993 Turner transmittals to the Museum of Modern Art.
This rate excludes charges for service, inspection, or retrieval. MoMA estimates that at 1993 commercial rates, it would cost over $800,000 yearly to store its film collection (nitrate and safety) at the Museum's current service and security levels (Mary Lea Bandy, interview, June 14, 1993). Return to text
(160) Andrea Alsberg, "Dracula en espaol," Archive: UCLA Film and Television Archive Newsletter (January/February 1993): 5; and David Francis, interview, June 6, 1993. Return to text
(161) See written submission, pp. 101-2. Return to text
(162) Bruce Goldstein, interview, May 5, 1993. To borrow a print from a film archive, Film Forum typically pays a handling fee to the archive and a rental fee to the rights holder. Film Forum takes steps to reduce the wear-and-tear on the archival print. Even with the permission of copyright holders, archives will generally not lend films, unless they are confident that the copy will not be damaged in exhibition. Return to text
(163) See Kirk Honeycutt, "Classics Pay Their Way in Pre-Vid Theatrical Runs," Hollywood Reporter, June 4, 1992, p. 1+. The theatrical re-release of commercially restored titles like Lawrence of Arabia opens the door for lucrative home video products. Return to text
(164) The physical condition of the nitrate controls the labor-intensive preparation time needed before copying can begin. The $1.50-per-foot estimate would be for a silent film copied from a print that needed little preparation, with the creation of a safety duplicate negative and answer print. The $3.50 estimate would be for a sound film where the original picture and track negatives survived but needed significant preparation work. (Background for these estimates from Edward Richmond and Bob Gitt, memo to authors, April 22, 1993.) As Ralph Sargent, President of Film Technology, testified about 25 black-and-white preservation projects completed by his company, "there does not appear to be any correlation between the gross footage and `extra charges'" for the labor and processes needed to achieve archival quality; L.A. hearing, p. 31. Return to text
(165) Duplicate nitrate on the same title can result in less safety footage created, but usually considerably more safety is created, because of separate soundtrack copying or the varieties of elements created (duplicate negatives, fine grain masters, reference prints, etc.). An example: The George Eastman House in 1977 copied 484,000 feet of nitrate and created 512,000 feet of acetate; in 1982 it copied just 215,000 feet of nitrate but created 617,000 feet of acetate; John B. Kuiper, "Film Preservation at George Eastman House," Image 26 (1984): 22. Return to text
(166) This estimate would break down as follows: George Eastman House, 6,000,000 feet; Library of Congress, 40,000,000 feet; Museum of Modern Art, 25,500,000 feet; UCLA, 24,000,000 feet; other archives with smaller nitrate collections (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Anthology Film Archives, Bishop Museum, National Center for Jewish Film, Pacific Film Archive, Oregon Historical Society, Southwest Film/Video Archives, and Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research), 1,600,000 feet. Since the majority of this surviving material is now from the sound era, an average per-nitrate-foot conversion of $2.50 might be expected. 97,100,000 feet x $2.50 = $242,750,000. (Interviews with archivists from each institution, January-May 1993; for several of the smaller collections, footage was estimated from title figures.) Return to text
(167) See, for instance, testimony by Richard Dayton, YCM, L.A. hearing, p. 32. Return to text
(168) William K. Everson, "Should Everything Be Saved?" Films in Review 29 (November 1978): 543. Return to text
(169) The Preservation Commission of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) has made an attempt to establish objective standards in this generally subjective area of duplication quality; see Henning Schou and Dominic Case, "An Experimental Quality Control Program for Printing Archival Film," SMPTE Journal 96 (December 1987): 1180-5. Return to text
(170) R.M.M. Wiener, "Vanishing Art: Fading Color Threatens Film Archives," Boxoffice 116 (April 28, 1980): 8. Return to text
(171) See submission from Sony Pictures Entertainment, pp. 352-5. Return to text
(172) See submission from Sony Pictures; and "Columbia Aims To Show Its True Colors with New Group," Variety, June 27, 1990, p. 14. Return to text
(173) See testimony from Mary Lea Bandy, MoMA, D.C. hearing, p. 82. Return to text
(174) Robert Rosen, "Unity, Not Sour Grapes, Needed To Restore Classic Films," Los Angeles Times, December 28, 1992, p. F3. Return to text
(175) The Ben-Hur restoration was supervised by David Gill and Kevin Brownlow, for "Thames Silents" and the 1987 London Film Festival; see Brownlow, "Reconstructing Silent Classics a Global Effort," Variety, June 1, 1988. The Noah's Ark restoration was supervised by Bob Gitt for UCLA; see Four Tasks of Film Archives (Tokyo: Film Center of the National Museum of Art, 1990), 145-6. Return to text
(176) Susan Dalton, interview, May 19, 1993. Return to text
(177) AMIA grew from two organizations, FAAC and TAAC (the Film Archives Advisory Committee and the Television Archives Advisory Committee), for American institutions concerned with the archival management and preservation of moving image material; see submission by AMIA (Jan-Christopher Horak, current President). As of March 1993, AMIA has 196 individual members, 35 non-profit institutional members, and 11 for-profit institutional members. Return to text
(178) Approximate percentages calculated from unpublished lists of FIAF archive holdings. Of the 846 feature films (of four reels or more) produced in the U.S. in 1918, only about 29 titles survive in complete form in U.S. public archives; approximately 27 additional complete titles survive in foreign FIAF archives. Thus the current U.S. survival rate for 1918 features comes to just 3.4% of total production, with an additional 3.2% precariously held in foreign archives. Because the lists are thought to be somewhat less complete for foreign, than for American, archives, the proportion of U.S. silent features held abroad is probably even greater than reported. For an earlier history of the repatriation of missing American silent films, see Eileen Bowser, "`Lost' Films Are Found in the Most Unexpected Places," New York Times, June 25, 1978, pp. D17, 22. Return to text
(179) Rone Tempest, "French Festival Takes Aim at Film Preservation Efforts," Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1991, p. F3. Return to text
(180) Frederick Wiseman, testimony, D.C. hearing, p. 12. Return to text