Read Tim League's Essay on Why 35mm Film Deserves Your Respect

March 6, 2017
Source: Indiewire

35mm Film

This past weekend, Alamo Drafthouse and Kodak partnered to host the very first annual "Reel Film Day" to celebrate 35mm cinema (official website). To mark the occasion, numerous classic films were projected in 35mm at all of the various Drafthouse locations around the country. In celebration of 35mm and the glory of cinema, Drafthouse founder/CEO Tim League wrote a passionate essay on Indiewire to commemorate the first Reel Film Day. The full essay is titled "35mm Film Deserves Your Respect: Alamo Drafthouse Founder Tim League Makes the Case" and it's a must read, not just because Tim is one of the smartest guys in this entire industry, but also because it's such a wonderfully vibrant reminder of the true value of art and film.

Here's an excerpt from Tim League's 35mm essay - one of the best parts. Read the full post on Indiewire.

I personally believe that the projection of film and public support for venues who continue to invest in film projection is integral to preserving our rich film history.

Ninety percent of films released in the silent era are gone… forever. Sure, the big classics were preserved, but vast swaths of films deemed at the time to have no historic significance hit the dumpsters and are now forever lost to the world. If you peruse old copies of the now-defunct cinema industry journal Motion Picture World from the 1910s and 1920s, your heart aches as you see page after page of ads for films you will never, ever have the chance to see.

Perhaps even more tragic, because it happened in my own lifetime, 30% of the films from the grand exploitation/drive-in era of the 1970s are similarly lost forever. The harsh reality is that America has a stunningly poor record when it comes to film preservation.

When the digital cinema revolution hit in the early 2000s and studios phased out 35mm prints altogether, another great purge of film history began again. The vast majority of cinemas threw away their film projectors in favor of new digital projectors. They switched from 35mm film to DCP digital files and never looked back. Without theaters to be able to play their wares, niche 35mm libraries and distributors shuttered their doors and many of these archives of film were lost and are not coming back.

Cinemas with only digital projectors have access to less than 5% of classic films on the DCP format. Without the ability to project film, theaters are confined to screen only new release movies and just the tiniest sliver of classic film.

Hear hear. He ends saying: "If you consider yourself a cinephile, if you love classic films and care about the preservation and legacy of our grand movie history, I encourage you to reflect on March 5th about the importance of independent theaters and get out of the house to watch a movie projected from film in one of these sacred spaces." I would add that this should be something you do as much as possible - every week, every day. Support your local art house cinemas, and support great films, especially those still being shown on 35mm. Since the start of FS, we've been strong supporters of the theatrical experience - and still adore the incomparable experience of seeing films in the cinema. I'm glad Tim is also a passionate supporter and always outspoken about what means the most to all of us who love movies more than anything else. Cheers.

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  • 90% of anything is fodder. Be it in the silent era or in our time. But I understand the historical value of these now gone films.
    • Bo
      True enough, tarek, but that fodder, if it was shot on film, looks better aesthetically than digital....and always will in my most humblest of just do not like the look of digital compared to film and probably never will. Then again, I grew up when films were shot on film and got involved and worked for many years in the film industry when everything was shot on film so there will always be a huge comparison for me between film and digital. I am beginning to understand that many of the younger viewers on these film sites have probably never even seen a film shot on film...which blows my mind...but it helps me see their indifference to actual film. It is of interest to me that many, if not most, of the movies made today...and shot digitally, are of no import to me and lacking in comparison to the great films I still love from the beginning of the '50's into the '60's and 70's and early 80's. I began to lose interest in most movies when Spielberg and Lucas hit with the huge blockbusters and the studios began to churn those out for the mass audience in order to make the huge amounts of money they made from them. Curiously it's the same for music for me. I have no interest and find no value or enjoyment in most of the popular music these days and find myself still listening to the music that created the great musical and cultural explosion beginning in the early '60's. Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, The Who, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Simon and Garfunkel, John Prine, Leonard Cohen, Eric Clapton, Bob Marley...running out of steam, but I think you might get my point here...even though I think I'm a bit older than even!
      • Hey Bo. Always a pleasure to read your contributions. While I fully understand your position regarding the organic feel of movies filmed on celluloid, we must accept that it has run its course. development and conservation are two major issues to the film industry. For good or ill, there is no bright future for film media. If we can save and conserve on digital media the existing film library, it would be a feat. Every day that passes is synonym of advanced deprecation or destruction of many non classical movie films. I grew up watching films like Spartacus, McKenna's gold, the good, the bad and the Ugly...What a great, movie experience. These movies were exceptional because of the mastery behind the camera and the genuine acting of course, but what made the experience so exceptional is the fact that I wasn't watching "reality", I was looking through a magical window, It was cinema. the "imperfection" of the media and the amazing lenses used were behind this inimitable result. Do I miss this? Yes and no. Yes because we no longer have actors of the caliber of James Stewart or Cary Grant, or directors like Sam Peckimpah, and no because media have evolved, as well as acting, for good or ill. It's a new era, it has the same share of greatness and awfulness as the golden age. Our nostalgia makes us forget about the dozens of duds produced during this era. PS: You forgot Queen in your list. One of the greatest rock band. ;D Cheers.
        • Bo
'm am literally chuckling out loud tarek because, well, I'm just not a Queen fan... never have been...never will did not 'forget' them on my As far as the whole film thing, yea, I have no argument with your reply to my post. It has run its course and I'm sad about that. There will always be certain filmmakers who will keep using film, but the majority of the whole industry simply will not. And hey...just because a film is shot on film does not make it a good film as you have so intelligently pointed out. In fact, I would say there are more duds than good films...and that will hold true regardless of whether the movie is shot on film or digital. Of that I whole heartedly agree with evidenced by the many, many just awful very popular movies these days...that'd be my most humble opinion, of!
    I thought they keep a record of every film that is released. I guess League is talking about the underground stuff that was shared semi-privately among grindhouse type theaters. To be honest, I like both just fine. If vinyl music can make a comeback, anything is possible.
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