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February 1998, Week 2


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Filmmuseum <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 10 Feb 1998 01:19:03 -0500
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Dear Irene,
while I understand your sentiment that you think the big Hollywood film
companies should be paying for film preservation - I mean they have the
bucks, don't they ? - , your email is clearly misinformed.
First of all, your cacky comment about Martin Scorsese does not take into
account that Scorsese has indeed single-handedly preserved a whole host of
films. NO ONE HAS DONE MORE FOR  FILM PRESERVATION than Scorsese, both out
of his own pocket and as the founder of a film archives foundation. I can
think of dozens of other big names in Hollywood who should be hit up for
funds, but  Scorsese has certainly done his share.
Secondly, film preservation is much more expendive than a "villa". The
preservation oif a single silent film can cost $20,000. A sound and color
film can cost  $50,000. There are still literally thousands of films still
unprotected and unpreserved in the nation's film archives.
Thirdly, the major Hollywood film companies in business today are actually
funding film preservation. Disney,  Sony-Columbia, as well as Warner
Brothers, Universal, and Twentieth Century-Fox are actively taking care of
their vaults. And they are not using money from ticket sales, since such
income is divided between the exhibitors, distributors and the producers.
The problem is they are basically only in a position to preserve those
films which are still controlled by them through copyright. That means
virtually all silent films are no longer of interest to them. All those
thousands of films made by companies now dead, defunct, out-of-business,
are not their problem. What about all those historically valuable
documentaries, avant-garde films, industrial and educational films. They,
too, are homeless. We call such public domain films "orphans", because no
one has been willing to take responsibility for them, except such public
film archives as George Eastman House, Museum of Modern Art, Library of
Congress, and UCLA Film & TV Archives. If the "public" and/or government
does not fund the preservation of these titles, they will disappear. Even
now 50% of all films made before 1950 are irretrievably lost. The creation
of the National Film Preservation Board and National Film Preservation
Foundation is necessary to fund those archives doing this important work.
Finally, funding film preservation does not take money away from artists.
Indeed, NEA cut film preservation funding before they cut grants to
artists. Certainly artist funding need to be continued, even expanded. But
our cultural history is just as important.
Taking a percentage from every ticket sold in America as a film
preservation tax, is actually not a bad idea. But I hardly think you will
be able to get either Congress, or the film industry, or the public to
accept yet another tax. In lieu of such a proposal, we need the public to
preserve all films, if we want future generations to understand our
Chris Horak
Munich Filmmuseum
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