I think what we're all forgetting here is that the studios in totem, with very few exceptions, have very little interest in preserving their lesser known titles for the simple fact that they remain 'lesser known' through an absence of exposure over the years. It's chicken and egg really. The studio says there's no market for them because they haven't been marketed properly over the years and thus few know anything about them, even that they might exist at all.
I think the philosophy at Fox in particular has been skewed by a number of mitigating factors; first, the downturn in the economy that has really impacted the bottom line for catalogue titles - especially ones like Apartment for Peggy or Suez, great movies that just don't have a following. Fox ought to have put their best foot forward on this MOD program but alas they took the quick and dirty route; unwilling or unable to scour their own archives for whatever surviving elements currently exist. Old video masters don't cut it in today's market but failure to purchase what's being pumped out will only serve to reaffirm for the powers that be that there is NO afterlife for these movies.
The philosophy ought to be rethought, however, particularly since the studio's reputation has been built upon these great and glorious golden oldies. Personal opinion, of course, but nothing that ANY of the studios have put out in the last 20 years comes near to rivaling many of the titles featured in this MOD program in either performance or artistry, and certainly very few - if any - of the movies Fox has committed to celluloid since the year 2000 will be celebrating a 50th or 70th anniversary reissue in the future. Movies used to be an art as well as a business. Now they're mostly about clever marketing and that proverbial flash in the pan to rake in the millions on an opening weekend or two. That sort of marketing breeds nothing better than disposable entertainments - filler for the masses that leaves no indelible impression on the collective cultural consciousness of a generation.
There is a reason we are still talking about these classics with reverence and it has nothing - or at the very least - VERY little to do with our warm, fuzzy feeling for nostalgia and that all but forgotten ghost flower frequently referenced as 'golden Hollywood'. No, the movies on Fox's current MOD program are much beloved because they had - and continue to have - staying power. Once seen their images are burned into our minds. We relive the memory as part of our own and that says quite a lot about the integrity of the product itself.
I am not a fan of MOD DVD because in the long run it cheats the collector of seeing these great movies in a manner befitting their innate value as collected works of art. Warner's MOD program, as example, has simply become a dumping ground for a litany of home grown and MGM product that the studio feels will never have a shelf life beyond this disposable disc format. Fox has taken an even more laissez faire approach by cutting corners with regards to proper OAR and video mastering.
What's happening is rather scary, because one day not so very far off we will have lost the ability to go back to original masters (if, in fact any currently exist) or even be able to revisit second and third generation prints with any degree of salvaging what's left on the negative for future generations. Whole portions of Hollywood's past are in a perilous state of decay as restoration experts like Robert Harris can attest to. One day they simply will not exist at all and we will be stuck with lackluster, digitally combed, badly faded and out of sync copies of these movies as the only surviving points of reference. That's disheartening.
I have long been of the opinion that the studios en masse, in conjunction with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Library of Congress, The AFI and the Film Foundation need to establish a collective fund for the preservation and restoration of EVERY home grown Hollywood motion picture currently still in existence in one form or another. At present every studio has this isolationist philosophy that they can do it on their own; keeping their movies under lock and key for fear that someone else will scoop them first and steal away their profit margin.
What this means is that vast libraries remain buried in vaults in a salt mine somewhere without - or with extremely little - hope of ever seeing the light of day. No, what the studios need to do is set aside their differences and join hands with the aforementioned major contributors and come up with a collective plan of action that includes all of the allocated moneys, time and effort going into one gigantic pot. At present none of these organizations works alongside the other. That needs to end and a meeting of the minds, as well as the creative brain trusts needs to take place to make this happen! NOW!
Then the studios need to decide on how best to market their films to today's audience in a way that will do justice to their histories and preserve them for hundreds of years yet to come. Restoration takes time and money - yes. But it's about time everyone got on board with the concept that movie art IS art - period. If we were talking about the Mona Lisa or the Last Supper and someone said, "well, it's just to expensive to fix...so let's just chuck the canvass in a backroom somewhere or repaint the wall in the chapel with a new painting"...art historians everywhere would be outraged and the public outcry would shatter the notion that we should simply throw out the old to make way for the new. Curiously, this same philosophy is not being applied to movie art. Somehow, it has become quite acceptable to ignore classics moldering with the past as mere relics to be dumped on the market in MOD programs without any care or thought for the original intent of the film makers.
Time and money are commodities that NEED to be spent to get movies looking as they did when we first saw them - period. Feasibility is always the trump card. Studios will say, "yes, that's a very nice 'pie in the sky notion' but it doesn't work in the real 'reel' world." My argument is as follows: there's always a way to make it work! I've given my way herein.
How would I do it. First, set up a meeting between all of the majors - each bringing to light their concerns with samples of their deteriorating catalogue on hand. At this meeting would be a plethora of restoration experts, plus a round up of film lovers like Spielberg and Scorsese, and investors with money to spend (the Bill Gates, The Trumps, the Warren Buffets...you get the picture). I would make the pitch that in neglecting movie art we are depriving our national heritage of a great and ongoing history and promote the cause of restoration as not merely something we should do because it is the right thing, but market it as a necessity for the future of art appreciation.
Then I would ask the various organizations to step up to the plate (the AFI, Film Foundation, et al) and act as financiers for the collective pool of managing one mass account dedicated to the restoration of these movies with an ongoing investment from the backers. I would also establish a film lover's pool - a contributor's market for people who are not millionaires but would agree that movies are an art and would like to help by sending in their contributions via a telethon of sorts. I would encourage networks to get behind the movement; Fox Movie, TCM, AMC etc. Do it the way PBS does their fund raising, offering call-in contributors memorabilia and other collectibles for their generous donations.
There's a lot more to this discussion that ought to be discussed, intelligently. I've used the Fox forum as my pulpit simply to prove two points: (1) that the current MOD program is quite insufficient and (2) that there is a better way to assure that these movies will be seen, respected, loved and treasured for many years to come. Someone at Fox said it takes roughly $10,000 to do new video masters. I think we can all agree that with the list of powerful studios, organizations and game plan I have put forth herein, we could easily raise at least $10 million for starters dedicated to the cause of salvaging America's national movie heritage, and this by tomorrow afternoon if everyone was on board. So, don't tell me it's too expensive to do what needs to be done! It can be done. It must be done. There. I've said my peace.
Edited by Nick*Z, June 23 2013 - 05:58 AM.