The fight to save 35mm.

I think 35mm film is the most beautiful thing in the world.

There’s a magic, a real powerful sense of alchemy that comes from watching light projected through a strip of 35mm film at 24 frames per second. You can feel the chemical, analog process that has brought out light and shadows, brilliant colors and human faces. It’s special.

But it’s also dying. With Hollywood getting fully behind the transition to digital cinema, new prints of 35mm films will slowly start to disappear and soon stop altogether, even for rentals of archival prints. Now digital cinema is nothing to fear, there are great artists like David Fincher and Steven Soderbergh that have embraced it, but what makes no sense – and what’s worth fighting back against – is why that means 35mm has to die out altogether. In fact contrary to popular belief that “everything is on DVD”, each time a new format comes in a part of film history fails to make that transition. Not every film ever made will eventually have a pristine HD copy available for it. Film is part of our cultural heritage, and a key piece in the history of this artform.

Luckily there’s a cause forming to help save the fragile beauty of film. Julia Marchese of Los Angeles’s wonderful repertory house the New Beverly has started a petition that is gaining momentum online to express our film fan desire to keep 35mm prints circulating. If you have a minute today, I urge you to sign it. 35mm forever!



About Jesse Trussell

Film programmer for the Paramount Theatre in Austin, TX.
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3 Responses to The fight to save 35mm.

  1. I’m not sure I get what this petition is trying to do. I’m a film lover and definitely in favor of the preservation of 35mm films, but I don’t see the artistic or business case for continuing to push studios to support the format. A “no film left behind” movement arguing for the conversion of endangered films to digital HD seems like a better move. Isn’t the replication of 35mm film prints (which will eventually degrade) just kicking the problem down the road?

    • Hey Chris,

      I definitely hear what you are saying, and if there was a petition/organization to push for wider transfer of films to DCP I’d be all for it (even if I still think that seeing films on 35mm is quite unique and special). For me the goal here is less to push the studios to put major support behind new 35mm prints for all titles, which is just not going to happen, than to continue to allow repertory houses and museums to have access to those archives that will still exist. As is they have rules about the theaters they will send films to (use of reel-to-reel systems, etc) that limit damage on archival copies, and we pay all the shipping fees, so we just hope to maintain the ability to access them.

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