Hollywood Film Preservation

In May 1990, Hollywood film directors Martin Scorcese, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford, and Steven Spielberg announced the formation of The Film Foundation, an organization dedicated to ensuring the survival of American film heritage. This event solidified the issue of film preservation into the awareness of the general public. But what attracted the interest of arguably the most important Hollywood filmmakers of the late twentieth century? Why was there a concern about old films? This paper will explore some of these issues and take a look at the direction of future film preservation.

Preservation and restoration are two ways that films are kept over time. Preservation of film is the attempt 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 aural values retained, and (2) protected for the future by ‘preprint’ material through which subsequent viewing copies can be created. . . Preservation usually means duplication of the film on to another medium. By doing this, the film will be kept in as close to its original form as possible (Melville 9). Restoration, a process related to preservation, goes beyond preservation. ‘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’ (Melville 9). The film is reconstructed or put back together again in a form that the preservationist believes the director had intended. These processes are necessary because of the volatile nature of the negatives and prints.

Film Introduction Nitrate Acetate Archives AFI/Film Foundation
Preservation Digital 'Film' Digital Preservation Bibliography

Created by Chris Profiri on November 26, 2003
as part of the LIS 600 course requirements in the Master in Library and Information Studies Degree
from the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta