June 6th, 2008

carole lombard 05
  • vp19

Film heritage aflame

First, the good news: As stated previously, Sunday's fire at Universal Studios did not affect the negatives of its film library, which includes several hundred pre-1948 Paramount titles (including a number of Carole Lombard films). They are safely stored in the east.

Now, the bad news: If you want to see many of these movies at repertory houses or at film societies, you may have to wait a while.

According to Nikki Finke's excellent blog deadlinehollywooddaily.com, Universal has e-mailed nearly three dozen exhibitors and other classic film bookers that the fire destroyed nearly all the 35mm prints of films stored in the vault. Finke writes, "So, in the short term, Universal has canceled bookings of anything archival coming directly from Universal City and can't honor any film bookings of prints that were set to ship from there."

Universal has pledged to making new repertory prints of its library. Good to hear, because some are skeptical; according to Finke, "Some industry types are e-mailing me that, with these prints gone, and the expense of making new prints, they fear that art houses and cultural organizations and film societies and festivals may never see these films theatrically again."

However, Universal believes it may have duplicate prints in storage in other locations, so it's possible the task may not be quite so daunting. Nevertheless, one fears that more obscure, less popular titles -- the main courses of any good revival house's menu -- may be relegated by studio bean counters to the end of the line for yet another print of "Dracula" or "Frankenstein."
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