Dear Screen-L Readers:
I would appreciate any suggestions as to how academic institutions can
convince commercial distributors not to destroy prints of films for which
their rights have expired.
A bit of context: our film studies program at the Univeristy of Otago (New
Zealand) has made a commitment to teaching film by showing 16 and mostly 35
mm prints of films whenever possible, which in this case means when there
is a print of a film in New Zealand and in some cases Australia. It's
demanding (administratively and financially) and requires quite a bit of
organization but it is made even more difficult by the fact that we never
really know in advance if the print of the film will still be available.
New Zealand distributors either return the prints of films for which their
distribution rights have expired, or in many cases, they just destroy them.
We have contacted those distributors and suggested that we would be happy
to become a repository of prints for which commercial rights have expired.
We were essentially laughed at.
The New Zeland Film Archives have an excellent collection and they are most
cooperative but they only keep NZ material or archival material from the
early days of cinema (which they sometimes use to get NZ material back in
the country). The other non-profit collections (such as the NZ Federation
of film Societies) have mainly 16 mm material (and we all know to aging 16
mm prints) and the range is somewhat limited.
Has anybody experienced this problem anywhere in the world? What are
possible solutions, compromises...? How sensible would it be to lobby the
New Zealand government to make sure that prints of films screened in NZ
just do not disappear? Are there international standards? Since most of the
films screened here are from American companies, can anything be done at
I know that the world of film distribution is beyond such concerns. Has
anyone found ways in which the interests of academic institutions can be
taken into account?
Thanks for responses on the matter. I'd be glad to receive direct responses
and write a summary of suggestions.
Film Studies Coordinator
University of Otago
PO Box 56
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