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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Classic Film Fans Petition to Keep Films on Film

The 1989 Best Foreign Picture winner, Cinema Paradiso beautifully expressed the thrill and excitement that can be had when watching a flickering film in a darkened movie theater. An experience that just can’t be duplicated with any other format, no matter how technologically advanced it is. The major film studios have decided that they will eventually stop renting 35mm film prints. That includes all 35mm film prints, including archival prints of classic films. Their reasoning is not unexpected, nor is it unrealistic. It simply costs too much money. Especially when you consider that more and more modern theaters don’t even provide projectors for the dying format, and everyday there are fewer and fewer revival houses that do. And when you factor in the cost of shipping and storing, one can understand how a company worried about the bottom line struggles to justify the expense when digital is just so much more cost efficient.

But the fact is there are art house theaters that do still honor the old tradition of presenting a film in its original format, and they should not be forgotten, let alone forced into financial ruin for doing so. In fact, Quentin Tarantino’s favorite LA movie venue, The New Beverly Cinema is one of those theaters. They only show films on 35mm prints. So, naturally one of the employees, Julia Marchese has started a petition to preserve this tradition (use image above as link to petition). The petition is a simple one directed at the major film studios. It states as follows:

“We the undersigned feel that 35mm is an invaluable medium and want your film prints to remain available to screen in revival houses around the country. We do not feel that repertory cinemas should be forced to convert to digital projection, but should be able to continue to rent films from your archives to be shown in the form they were intended. We do not want film prints to be destroyed because of lack or cost of storage space. Cinema is history, and one of the most important arts that man has created. Please consider the cultural significance of 35mm film, and don't take it away from the cinephiles to whom it means so much. Thank you”.

The idea is to let the decision makers know that there are people who care about how they view the films they want to see. That there are repertory feature houses such as the New Bev that still use a reel to reel projection system to screen films from every decade of cinema history, covering a spectrum of genres that include the Indies as well as the main stream, foreign and domestic. Films that are loved by cinephiles for being just that - films on actual film stock. So, if you feel as passionate about preserving an endangered format as much as I and Julia do, please use the link above to take you to where you can sign the petition. Then forward the link to all the other cinephiles you know.

Ultimately, I think the studios and distributors are going to do what they want. But I can’t sit by and not have my voice heard. I know how I would prefer things, but realistically it’s probably going to take some wealthy cinema fanatics to step forward and buy up the existing prints, as well as foot the cost of storage. Who knows, maybe this grass roots effort will inspire the establishment of some kind of sponsorship program with an already existing archive, such as UCLA. The most important thing is to make people aware of the situation the future of cinema now faces. And this petition serves to bring notoriety to just that. Thank goodness for Julia and all those proud to call themselves film snobs. Viva la 35mm print! Viva cinema!

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