Save 35MM Exhibition

Seeing film projected on a screen may soon be a thing of the past. Here's why you should care.

There's a petition going around that was the talk of the recent AMIA (Association Of Moving Image Archivists) convention in Austin last week. It was started by our old friend Julia Marchese of the New Beverly Cinema and it calls on the repertory arms of the major studios to keep 35mm film prints available for theatrical exhibition.

While many people may be surprised that there is even discussion of dissolving the film libraries maintained by the major studios, it's a very real possibility. The divisions that rent, store and maintain these treasure troves are not big money makers and are sitting ducks for downsizing.

As one who works in film programming all the time, I recognize that digital "prints" are likely to become the new standard - the cost savings to the studios will be huge - and such a transition is probably inevitable. However, we have to recognize that we are losing something vital, some mysterious magical quality of light and shadow that attracted us to the movies in the first place. An optimally struck and projected 4k DCP lags far behind film in resolution. We may decide we are OK with it but we have then lost something and it will never come back.

Every time a new format becomes the standard a great number of titles are left behind. It has happened with the transition from VHS to DVD and DVD to Blu Ray. Some titles are considered less valuable or more troublesome than others, and they may fade into oblivion or even become lost entirely. The number of current films that have even been encoded as 2k DCP (roughly Blu Ray quality) is tiny, and without access to the 35mm prints of those titles, theaters may not ever be able to screen them at all.

So while the petition may be imperfect, and probably just another email for a bunch of rich dudes to ignore, it is a chance to make your voice heard and to let the studios know that you love the movies and you care about the way they are presented.

Click here for the petition.