Jump to content


Photo

What Happens to 35mm Release Prints After Release?


  • Please log in to reply
16 replies to this topic

#1 Ernie Zahn

Ernie Zahn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 180 posts
  • Director
  • Greenwich, CT

Posted 20 August 2013 - 12:02 PM

Google was not my friend on this one. I can't seem to get a clear answer on this. I know that most theaters in the UK and US are digital now but there are still some 35mm release prints out there on a limited scale. But before 2009 there were many many 35mm theaters. So I'm wondering, what happens to release prints when they're cycled through at the main theater chains? 

 

I assume many of them move to smaller theaters that play films after the films' box office plateau. What about after that? I'd imagine that are thousands and thousands  

out there but I only see a few once and a while on eBay. There's never a shortage of trailers for sale on eBay though. 

 

I know they are not strictly speaking legal to own. Roddy Mcdowall's place got raided by the police in the 70's for having a host of unauthorized for personal use, prints. Though I've heard legality around that doesn't get enforced anymore since the rise of the home video market. I've heard that Quentin Tarantino has a personal library of them too. 

 

So anyway, I see a couple here and there pop up on ebay and flea markets and such but that's all? Do they get sent back to the distributors and archived or destroyed, while others slip through the cracks? 

 

 


  • 0

#2 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 20 August 2013 - 12:09 PM

Back in 1992, I used to work at a sound post facility and chopped-up 35mm release prints were used in tiny rolls as "sound fill" while editing 35mm mag, to fill in the gaps so that the reel matched the picture reel in length and stayed in sync.

 

The studio basically keeps a few release prints that are in good condition and recycles the rest -- I think they are shredded and then recycled, being made of plastic (Estar.)


  • 0

#3 David Cunningham

David Cunningham
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1049 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 20 August 2013 - 02:23 PM

I was always wondering about that too.  You would think that they would offer them up for sale.  I would totally buy a 35mm projector and some old release prints... scratches, dust and all.


  • 0

#4 Ernie Zahn

Ernie Zahn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 180 posts
  • Director
  • Greenwich, CT

Posted 20 August 2013 - 02:54 PM

Thanks for the info David. It's interesting though kind of unfortunate. I'm sure there is an elite segment of collectors out there that would love great access to these prints. Then again, I'm in favor of recycling! 


  • 0

#5 Heikki Repo

Heikki Repo
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 421 posts
  • Director
  • Finland

Posted 20 August 2013 - 06:24 PM

What I find rather curious is that already with the bluray releases and more so with upcoming 4K release formats we are in a situation that the releases sold to customers have more than enough resolution for running your own underground theather with a 2K or 4K projector.

 

In this age and time guarding 35mm release prints doesn't really make that much sense anymore.


  • 0

#6 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 20 August 2013 - 06:57 PM

I'm sure piracy is one reason why they wouldn't sell a print until it had been out for a few years, but the other reason is just shipping and storage, 10-ish 1000' reels is pretty bulky, just for one print, imagine five hundred of them in a vault, each copy of a movie probably takes up five feet of shelf space.


  • 0

#7 Ernie Zahn

Ernie Zahn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 180 posts
  • Director
  • Greenwich, CT

Posted 20 August 2013 - 10:53 PM

What I find rather curious is that already with the bluray releases and more so with upcoming 4K release formats we are in a situation that the releases sold to customers have more than enough resolution for running your own underground theather with a 2K or 4K projector.

 

In this age and time guarding 35mm release prints doesn't really make that much sense anymore.

 

Well I have a PS3 for BluRays and a 1080p BENQ projector with DLP. It does the job nicely and that's my go to for most movie nights. Though I have a select few prints on 16mm and Super 8 that I like to project too. It's not about one being better than the other - I'm not suggesting it would have mass market appeal at all but there is certainly a difference in the experience. 

 

It's not about quality, it's more of a nostalgic thing. I don't think photochemical film is not a viable option for delivery on a mass scale anymore. As an environmentalist I can't say no to digital projection. I wouldn't want to impose my own personal nostalgia on the public. The cost is too high. It's still nice, however, that its out there for a few weirdos like me. If I had to choose between Raiders of the Lost Ark on film VS BluRay I think I'd choose film every time. It's a complicated relationship  :wub:  In short, a select few film prints for special occasions and digital for pretty much everything else. I guess it's not that complicated. 

 

I'm sure piracy is one reason why they wouldn't sell a print until it had been out for a few years, but the other reason is just shipping and storage, 10-ish 1000' reels is pretty bulky, just for one print, imagine five hundred of them in a vault, each copy of a movie probably takes up five feet of shelf space.

 

True. Since we are talking about actual scannable images w/o any kind of analog equivalent to DRM, it would be hard for a studio to sell them. If someone got their hands on a theatrical print of Star Wars prior to the changes, I don't know if Lucas would be too keen on an ambitious fan getting that print telecined into HD and distributed into the ether.  


  • 0

#8 James Steven Beverly

James Steven Beverly
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 4199 posts
  • Director
  • El Paso, Texas

Posted 21 August 2013 - 10:08 PM

I'm sure piracy is one reason why they wouldn't sell a print until it had been out for a few years, but the other reason is just shipping and storage, 10-ish 1000' reels is pretty bulky, just for one print, imagine five hundred of them in a vault, each copy of a movie probably takes up five feet of shelf space.

They don't sell them but a lot don't make it back to the distributors. Eventually, some end up in private hands which has proven a God send for prints that would have been lost in the sands of time. Their sold and traded. There was Buster Keaton's first silent film (I THINK, that's what it was, I read it in the Hollywood Reporter online) thought lost that I JUST read about a week or so ago was rediscovered in I believe Brazil. I've read other accounts of similar lost films turning up and original cuts of iconic films found. I, PERSONALLY, feel these prints need to be allowed to be privately owned for just these reasons. Pirating these prints are, of coarse, despicable although, I'm a little on the fence about having a copy print made. I suppose of the owners of the copyright are paid and it's not being used commercially, it really isn't a problem.   Here's a site where people buy and trade prints:

 

http://www.scriptolo...formatting.html

 

and here's a projectionists, forum with 35mm projectors are bought and sold and there are LOADS of advice on everything projection from home 35mm screening rooms to multiplexes. Check it out.

 

http://www.scriptolo...formatting.html

 

Preserving and enjoying movie prints is a wonderful sideline hobby for film makers. It can really put you in touch with the history of your profession. 


  • 0

#9 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19769 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 21 August 2013 - 10:47 PM

I'm all for prints being collected -- history has shown that the more copies of anything out there in the world, the greater chance of survival.


  • 0

#10 James Steven Beverly

James Steven Beverly
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 4199 posts
  • Director
  • El Paso, Texas

Posted 22 August 2013 - 05:50 AM

With ya on that one, buddy! B) One of the big problems with prints in private hands though is lack of conservation and proper handling. some of these old prints go red or have nearly not image left. the just don't have the storage facilities studios do.


Edited by James Steven Beverly, 22 August 2013 - 05:55 AM.

  • 0

#11 Ernie Zahn

Ernie Zahn
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 180 posts
  • Director
  • Greenwich, CT

Posted 22 August 2013 - 10:41 AM

Well a lot of those cheaper Eastman stocks from the 60's and 70's fade no matter how well you take care of them. They were made cheaply because they made them to sell for the time being they didn't care much about the long term. It seems to be a repeating quality among studios. 

 

They burned nitrate prints on the set of Frankenstein for the fire at the windmill scene. Some of these films are totally lost now. There are also many rare films produced on Eastman stocks that never hit the home video market and they are totally pink, red, and brownish. 

 

I agree though - hobbyists who know how to take care of the prints, especially the LPP ones, have a better chance of making them last. 

 

If we're talking about films that don't exist commercially on Amazon or other retailers then, personally, I'm all for telecinning them and sharing them. If it isn't competing with a BluRay/DVD release then it deserves to be out there somehow. Unless it's a terrible movie :P


  • 0

#12 Jinny

Jinny

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 1 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 22 September 2013 - 11:19 PM

It's not about quality, it's more of a nostalgic thing. I don't think photochemical film is not a viable option for delivery on a mass scale anymore. As an environmentalist I can't say no to digital projection. I wouldn't want to impose my own personal nostalgia on the public. The cost is too high. It's still nice, however, that its out there for a few weirdos like me. If I had to choose between Raiders of the Lost Ark on film VS BluRay I think I'd choose film every time. It's a complicated relationship  :wub:  In short, a select few film prints for special occasions and digital for pretty much everything else. I guess it's not that complicated. 

I disagree that it's not about quality, of course it's about quality. If you put me in a theater and projected an image I could tell you whether it was 35mm or digital. I saw The Dark Knight Rises on both 35mm and digital and 35mm wins, no doubt about it. There's an entirely different resolution with 35mm that you don't get with digital, and when I've viewed digital I can see the pixels when I'm at the front of the auditorium, which I hate. Nostalgia has nothing to do with it. 


  • 1

#13 David Cunningham

David Cunningham
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1049 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 23 September 2013 - 09:57 AM

I disagree that it's not about quality, of course it's about quality. If you put me in a theater and projected an image I could tell you whether it was 35mm or digital. I saw The Dark Knight Rises on both 35mm and digital and 35mm wins, no doubt about it. There's an entirely different resolution with 35mm that you don't get with digital, and when I've viewed digital I can see the pixels when I'm at the front of the auditorium, which I hate. Nostalgia has nothing to do with it. 

 

Theoretically, a 4K digital projection (assuming a good/true projector) should look better than a 35mm print since at best the 35mm print is going to be from a 4K printer anyhow.

 

If you're talking about "The Master" where the entire process was photochemical, then a real print would win over a 4K projection, especially if you're talking about a 70mm print.  

 

But, with a film like the Dark Knight rises where the actual master is a 4K digital file, there is no way a 35mm print could be "better".  It's possible you like the look of it better.  But, there is SURELY information lost in the translation from a 4K master to a 35mm print.  Even if the digital master is 8K (which I doubt) the 4K projection should still be more true to the original digital file.  If the 35mm print is better, then the projection or projectionist is faulty in some way.  If you just "like" the look of the 35mm print better, it's probably because the softness and/or grain of the print film hides the pixels.  But, technically, that's a fault of the film not showing the actual information as it was mastered.


  • 0

#14 Ravi Kiran

Ravi Kiran
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 139 posts
  • Other
  • Los Angeles

Posted 23 September 2013 - 04:44 PM

If you're talking about "The Master" where the entire process was photochemical, then a real print would win over a 4K projection, especially if you're talking about a 70mm print.  

 

But, with a film like the Dark Knight rises where the actual master is a 4K digital file, there is no way a 35mm print could be "better".  It's possible you like the look of it better.  But, there is SURELY information lost in the translation from a 4K master to a 35mm print.  Even if the digital master is 8K (which I doubt) the 4K projection should still be more true to the original digital file.  If the 35mm print is better, then the projection or projectionist is faulty in some way.  If you just "like" the look of the 35mm print better, it's probably because the softness and/or grain of the print film hides the pixels.  But, technically, that's a fault of the film not showing the actual information as it was mastered.

 

The Dark Knight Rises was finished optically, as Christopher Nolan prefers, though obviously anything with CG in it was digitized at some point. No DI.

 

The Master went through a variety of processes, depending on the deliverable:

 

http://www.studiodai...mm-35mm-and-4k/

 

"First, there are the 70mm prints, which were all made in a photochemical finishing process. Second are the limited number of 35mm prints also struck from cut negative. (FotoKem doesn't know where those ended up.) Third are the general-release 35mm prints made from a hybrid 8K/6K DI process, and the fourth option is the 4K DCP, from the same DI, which will be projected at different resolutions depending on the capabilities of individual theaters."


Edited by Ravi Kiran, 23 September 2013 - 04:49 PM.

  • 0

#15 James Steven Beverly

James Steven Beverly
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 4199 posts
  • Director
  • El Paso, Texas

Posted 23 September 2013 - 10:50 PM

I disagree that it's not about quality, of course it's about quality. If you put me in a theater and projected an image I could tell you whether it was 35mm or digital. I saw The Dark Knight Rises on both 35mm and digital and 35mm wins, no doubt about it. There's an entirely different resolution with 35mm that you don't get with digital, and when I've viewed digital I can see the pixels when I'm at the front of the auditorium, which I hate. Nostalgia has nothing to do with it. 

Jinny, this is a PROFESSIONAL forum. As per the rules, you are required to use your REAL, FULL NAME. so unless you were stranded on a desert island by pirates, left for dead until a pack of hyenas took you in and raised you as one of their own but, BEING HYENAS, lacked the verbal skills to impart to you,  your proper sire name, which left you in the untenable position that you couldn't POSSIBLY know what your ACTUAL family name is so, instead of creating what you knew would be a lie that would haunt you for the rest of your live, leaving you broken in shame, you took a solemn vow to never have any legal name other than "Jinny" until you are able to discover your TRUE identity....you need to change it.. B)


  • 0

#16 Nate Opgenorth

Nate Opgenorth
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 41 posts
  • Camera Operator
  • Syracuse, NY

Posted 29 September 2013 - 09:02 PM

True. Since we are talking about actual scannable images w/o any kind of analog equivalent to DRM, it would be hard for a studio to sell them. If someone got their hands on a theatrical print of Star Wars prior to the changes, I don't know if Lucas would be too keen on an ambitious fan getting that print telecined into HD and distributed into the ether.  

Ah while I'm not a Star Wars aficionado I have had actual dreams of walking into my basement and discovering reels of my favorite and most beautiful movies with an Arri Scan next to them....back to reality!

 

 

Theoretically, a 4K digital projection (assuming a good/true projector) should look better than a 35mm print since at best the 35mm print is going to be from a 4K printer anyhow.

 

If you're talking about "The Master" where the entire process was photochemical, then a real print would win over a 4K projection, especially if you're talking about a 70mm print.  

 

But, with a film like the Dark Knight rises where the actual master is a 4K digital file, there is no way a 35mm print could be "better".  It's possible you like the look of it better.  But, there is SURELY information lost in the translation from a 4K master to a 35mm print.  Even if the digital master is 8K (which I doubt) the 4K projection should still be more true to the original digital file.  If the 35mm print is better, then the projection or projectionist is faulty in some way.  If you just "like" the look of the 35mm print better, it's probably because the softness and/or grain of the print film hides the pixels.  But, technically, that's a fault of the film not showing the actual information as it was mastered.

 

I think Chris Nolan would have a heart attack if he didn't photochem finish.....actually I think Chris Nolan would have a heart attack if he thought anyone thought a 4K DI was "enough" :P I believe their is an ASC Magazine issue on the editing process for The Dark Knight Rises...actually it might be just Inception but regardless Chris Nolan has a pretty intense view on film and photochem process vs DI. Remember bits and pieces of the story and feeling very very very tiny compared to the kind of workflow he had rolling through!


  • 0

#17 Jock Blakley

Jock Blakley
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 73 posts
  • Other
  • Melbourne, VIC

Posted 09 December 2013 - 11:56 PM

Ahh, this is the sad and sorry underbelly to the exhibition industry.

 

It is indeed the case that the vast majority of prints, once first-run exhibition is over, are junked either by simply being sent to landfill or more commonly now by being recycled for their polyester bases. Previously acetate prints suffered all manner of fates depending on the distributor and their approach to cost management - some were thrown in the skip, others were compacted, yet others shredded or put through a bandsaw, and some even simply laid out for the attentions of a despatch staffer with an axe.

 

It used to be that a handful of prints were selected, either based on inspection or knowledge of which prints were in the best condition, or randomly, to be kept for future repertory screenings, but that practice is (in Australia anyway) for all intents and purposes now dead.

We're now also seeing older repertory prints that have survived until now being junked because distributors are unwilling to continue footing the storage bills. Just last night we ran RUSHMORE and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS from original ex-distribution prints. RUSHMORE in particular looks stunning and has barely been run - but Walt Disney Pictures (Releasing) Australia are now telling us that they consider ALL of their 35mm prints to be "surplus to requirements" and that they'll be junking the lot of them soon.

The owner of theatre I work actually started his own distribution and print despatch company in the late '90s to try to preserve whatever he could - the impetus was Columbia planning to junk the only Australian 70mm print of HAMLET (1996). He ended up with both the distribution rights and the print, but it took the personal intervention of Kenneth Branagh to do it.

They also got hold of the MGM/UA portion of the UIP library when they ceased distributing in Australia, but in 2011 Park Circus took over the United Artists library and recalled all of the prints for all UA titles and all MGM titles post-1986. Between November 2011 and July 2012 all of those prints were junked, which included a print of the restoration of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, four new genuine B&W prints of RAGING BULL, a 2002 re-print of THE APARTMENT, prints of every James Bond film (including Technicolor IB prints of DR. NO, GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL, and a few others, and more than ten prints of GOLDENEYE), a '70s reprint of A BRIDGE TOO FAR, and on and on. Hundreds of prints.

 

If you can't trust the distributors to preserve these literally priceless artefacts of cinema's history, who can you trust?


  • 0


Rig Wheels Passport

Opal

CineTape

Paralinx LLC

The Slider

Abel Cine

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Technodolly

Metropolis Post

Tai Audio

Aerial Filmworks

Willys Widgets

Glidecam

Wooden Camera

rebotnix Technologies

Ritter Battery

CineLab

FJS International, LLC

Visual Products

Broadcast Solutions Inc

The Slider

Ritter Battery

Willys Widgets

rebotnix Technologies

Abel Cine

Glidecam

Rig Wheels Passport

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

FJS International, LLC

Metropolis Post

Paralinx LLC

Opal

Technodolly

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Tai Audio

Wooden Camera

CineTape

CineLab

Aerial Filmworks

Visual Products

Broadcast Solutions Inc