Alamo Drafthouse CEO weighs in on the physical-vs-digital debate

The debate over the future of physical film has been simmering for a few years now, with major directors and film personalities carving out a place for the future of celluloid. This weekend, Tim League, film advocate and CEO of independent theater chain Alama Drafthouse Cinema, added his voice to the fray. League has a … Continue reading “Alamo Drafthouse CEO weighs in on the physical-vs-digital debate”

The debate over the future of physical film has been simmering for a few years now, with major directors and film personalities carving out a place for the future of celluloid. This weekend, Tim League, film advocate and CEO of independent theater chain Alama Drafthouse Cinema, added his voice to the fray. League has a surprising and perhaps divisive perspective, lobbying in favor of the digital transition as a way to preserve the legacy of physical film.

League’s op-ed in Deadline is nuanced and difficult to summarize, but it boils down to encouraging the widespread adoption of digital projection to reduce costs and continue the modern relevance of the movie theater. But more importantly, physical films are far harder to project than digital files, and mismanagement can result in damage to the 99% of films that only exist in reel form. Classic films have cultural value, League argues, and we should screen them alongside modern movies – but with greater expert care and attention.

This is a much more complex view than the black-and-white defend-the-future-of-film line that we usually hear from preservationists, but it comes from an experienced theater owner and deserves respect. It adds a new wrinkle to the ongoing debate, especially from a business perspective. No doubt these stakeholders will save physical film from vanishing in the future, but maybe it can exist alongside digital film as a meaningful alternative rather than a curiosity.

A eulogy for the Saturday morning cartoon

Yesterday marked the largely unheralded end of a television tradition: the Saturday morning cartoon. For nearly fifty years, network channels devoted a significant portion of their Saturday programming to children’s animated programs, but with the end of The CW’s “Vortexx” block, no major broadcast networks is airing cartoons on Saturday anymore. After years of criticism … Continue reading “A eulogy for the Saturday morning cartoon”

Yesterday marked the largely unheralded end of a television tradition: the Saturday morning cartoon. For nearly fifty years, network channels devoted a significant portion of their Saturday programming to children’s animated programs, but with the end of The CW’s “Vortexx” block, no major broadcast networks is airing cartoons on Saturday anymore. After years of criticism for selling kids sugary cereal and toys, it’s not surprising (and perhaps for the better) that educational and family-friendly programs have largely replaced cartoons as the go-to weekend staple. Child-friendly animation is still alive and well on channels like Cartoon Network and Disney XD, but the tradition that birthed Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, GI Joe, and the likes is now finished.

Certainly in the pantheon of all television shows, Saturday morning cartoons were among the most disposable. But they were a culturally significant niche, one that influenced generations of children and, if the success of Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this summer is any indication, will continue to inform our media preferences for years to come.

Although our collection has a great selection of cartoons (including classics like Woody Woodpecker the recent The Amazing World of Gumball), we frankly don’t have very many that began as part of the Saturday morning tradition. This might be for the best, given the quality of some of them. We do however, have both Captain Planet and the Planeteers (HU DVD 8841) and Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures! (HU DVD 10285). If you’re looking for Saturday morning cartoons, you could certainly do worse than these too. But we don’t provide cereal and action figures.

Happy National Ghostbusters Day!

Today marks the startling thirtieth anniversary of Ghostbusters, maybe the most successful comedy film of all time. The film was so successful at release that it stayed the number one film in the country for seven solid weeks, and adjusted for inflation, it is still one of the highest grossing films of all time. Now … Continue reading “Happy National Ghostbusters Day!”

Today marks the startling thirtieth anniversary of Ghostbusters, maybe the most successful comedy film of all time. The film was so successful at release that it stayed the number one film in the country for seven solid weeks, and adjusted for inflation, it is still one of the highest grossing films of all time. Now we are as far from the release of Ghostbusters as Ghostbusters was from Rear Window. There’s probably too much hemming and hawing these days about the passage of time, but thirty years is a great milestone for classic film. Considering that we lost Harold Ramis this year, this anniversary feels particularly weighty.

The most exciting part of this anniversary is, by far, the re-release of Ghostbusters in theaters. If you look up any local theater listing, you will find dozens of screenings for the movie over the course of the Labor Day weekend. If you need an excuse to see it, remember that the first weeks of classes is nearly over, and you probably need a break. Bustin’ does make one feel good.

If you’re in further need of retrospection, the Los Angeles Times published a look back on the franchise from director Ivan Reitman, and SDRS Creative created a terrific infographic of trivia explaining the somewhat complicated production of the now legendary movie.

Who cares if it’s two months before Halloween? This is a great weekend for ghosts. Do not perish in flame!

Famous directors throw money to stall the imminent death of physical film

Ever since the all-digital release of 2002’s Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, filmmakers have steadily moved away from traditional film reels in favor of the increased power of digital cameras. As the Wall Street Journal points out, Kodak film consumption has decreased by nearly 12 billion linear feet in the past 8 … Continue reading “Famous directors throw money to stall the imminent death of physical film”

Ever since the all-digital release of 2002’s Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, filmmakers have steadily moved away from traditional film reels in favor of the increased power of digital cameras. As the Wall Street Journal points out, Kodak film consumption has decreased by nearly 12 billion linear feet in the past 8 years, a 97 percent decrease in orders. Very few (such as Steven Spielberg) are still developing physical prints of their movies. That spells almost certain death for the film market, but some directors – driven by nostalgia or an insistence that there’s a measurable difference in quality – have started a personal crusade to save their favorite format. But they’re using an unconventional, business-friendly strategy.

Quentin Tarantino, J. J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan, and other have convinced major studios to buy a fixed amount of physical film each year, allowing Kodak to stay in the film business and continue outputting new film for directors to use. Not all of it will be used, but maintaining a certain level of orders will keep film alive – at least as long as the studios keep funneling money.

It’s an unconventional idea that’s impractical, expensive, and will probably see a lot of film go to waste, and naturally, it’s met some resistance. But it will keep the option available for anyone who wants to use a now-antiquated format. Maybe future generations will learn the joys of 35mm after all.

See a future without books TODAY at library film screening

As a part of the library that frequently deals with streaming video, we understand hesitations about the transition to from physical to digital media. This is a concern that isn’t just limited to films; the rise of tablets and e-readers has led libraries to also reconsider the acquisition of expensive and bulky books when their … Continue reading “See a future without books TODAY at library film screening”

As a part of the library that frequently deals with streaming video, we understand hesitations about the transition to from physical to digital media. This is a concern that isn’t just limited to films; the rise of tablets and e-readers has led libraries to also reconsider the acquisition of expensive and bulky books when their digital alternatives are available. This opens a whole mess of sticky issues, including preservation, digital rights management, and the like.

Today, we’re tackling this challenge head on. The AU Library will be holding a screening for Out of Print, a documentary about the pros and cons of the transition away from hardcopies. Notable figures in the publishing world weigh in, including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury. The filmmaker, Vivienne Roumani, will be in attendance and will hold a Q&A afterwards. This is a very exciting event that we’re proud to sponsor.

The screening begins at 3pm in the Butler Board Room (sixth floor of the Butler Pavilion). No RSVP is required, and the event is free. We hope to see you there!

Farewell, VHS shelves!

There is a time and a place for everything. Unfortunately, the bell has tolled for our old VHS shelves. As we continue to expand our DVD collection, we needed to install more practical and compact shelving, and our rolling VHS unit had to go. Our VHSes are still sticking around, but in the meantime, we … Continue reading “Farewell, VHS shelves!”

There is a time and a place for everything. Unfortunately, the bell has tolled for our old VHS shelves. As we continue to expand our DVD collection, we needed to install more practical and compact shelving, and our rolling VHS unit had to go. Our VHSes are still sticking around, but in the meantime, we had to clear everything off and, with the help of AU’s wonderful facilities team, demolish what was left.

These shelves have been a mainstay of our department since the 1980s,  so it’s sad to see them go. On the bright side, dismantling them helped us find two long-missing DVDs!

We documented the takedown in excessive detail, so we’ve uploaded our photo gallery to Facebook. Check out our page to see all 50+ photos which get progressively nastier-looking as more layers are taken off the floor.

Yikes: 75 percent of all silent films are lost

We love lost and orphaned films, like an early Orson Welles picture that was recently uncovered, but this isn’t something we should have to get excited about. Films are important cultural objects, and it’s a shame if they go missing or are destroyed. Unfortunately, the prospects for early film preservation appear grimmer than expected. A … Continue reading “Yikes: 75 percent of all silent films are lost”

We love lost and orphaned films, like an early Orson Welles picture that was recently uncovered, but this isn’t something we should have to get excited about. Films are important cultural objects, and it’s a shame if they go missing or are destroyed.

Unfortunately, the prospects for early film preservation appear grimmer than expected. A new report from the Library of Congress estimates that 10,919 silent films were released by major studios, but only one in every four of those films still exists in any format. Even accounting for reprints and rediscovered foreign releases, these are cataclysmic numbers. Over 7,000 feature films – again, whole films – have been likely permanently lost to the ravages of time or neglect. As the Library of Congress points out, the audio limitations of silent films make them nearly a separate form of expression from current movies. It’s hard to comprehend that nearly an entire art form has been lost, but it greatly increases the cultural value of the ones that are left.

We love our new equipment! (And it needs a name)

This might not be the most exciting news for people outside the library community, but it’s big for us: we’ve officially upgraded our checkout equipment! The guy pictured above is the Mediacheck Model 325. It’s faster and more reliable than the equipment we’ve previously used. It won’t make too much of a difference on the … Continue reading “We love our new equipment! (And it needs a name)”

This might not be the most exciting news for people outside the library community, but it’s big for us: we’ve officially upgraded our checkout equipment!

The guy pictured above is the Mediacheck Model 325. It’s faster and more reliable than the equipment we’ve previously used. It won’t make too much of a difference on the user’s end, but it’s a big step up for us.

If you can think of a great name for these things, please let us know! One member of our staff suggests Domokun, and that’s a hard one to beat.

The last DVD checked out from a Blockbuster is appropriate, sad

Last week, home video mainstay Blockbuster announced the closure of its last remaining stores, effectively ending what was only a decade earlier a vertiable empire of film distribution. This is no surprise, especially for those in the DC area (the closest Blockbuster is nearly 30 miles away). Decades later, no one will likely lament the … Continue reading “The last DVD checked out from a Blockbuster is appropriate, sad”

Last week, home video mainstay Blockbuster announced the closure of its last remaining stores, effectively ending what was only a decade earlier a vertiable empire of film distribution. This is no surprise, especially for those in the DC area (the closest Blockbuster is nearly 30 miles away). Decades later, no one will likely lament the death of Blockbuster at the hands of Internet services, but it’s nonetheless a little sad for old-timers to see this era coming to an end. Where else will we get the personal, possibly-substance-enhanced movie recommendations from the guy at the checkout?

As a fitting end to the Blockbuster retail dynasty, the company announced that their final DVD rental was a copy of This is the End. Hold back your tears, folks. After years of accidentally renting Transmorphers from the store shelves and kindly rewinding VHS tapes, this seems like an appropriate send-off.

This isn’t to suggest that DVDs and Blu-rays are going anywhere in the long-term. In any event, take a moment to remember the first time you stepped foot in a rental store and how far technology has come since then

Sorry, VHS players. The Blu-rays are in!

For the longest time, Media Services has helped patrons view movies on-site with over a dozen DVD-VHS combo players. Sadly, they’re falling apart and hard to maintain, and fewer patrons are using VHSes now than even a few years ago. We’ve future-proofed ourselves by replacing the majority of our stations with new Blu-ray-DVD players. They’re … Continue reading “Sorry, VHS players. The Blu-rays are in!”

For the longest time, Media Services has helped patrons view movies on-site with over a dozen DVD-VHS combo players. Sadly, they’re falling apart and hard to maintain, and fewer patrons are using VHSes now than even a few years ago.

We’ve future-proofed ourselves by replacing the majority of our stations with new Blu-ray-DVD players. They’re smaller, faster, and have a number of built-in “smart” features (like Netflix playback) should we ever need those. Don’t worry: we’re keeping a couple VHS players around for those hard-to-find movies and special cases.

Come see them for yourself if you haven’t had to watch a movie recently. They’re pretty nice!