The TCM Classic Film Festival ran from April 6-9 this year, and like any other year, they aired time honored classics in iconic Hollywood venues, sometimes with the artists themselves as guests of honor. This year was entitled Comedy in the Movies, but that wasn't the detail that was particularly special about the event. This year, TCM screened four of their features using nitrate prints of the films. The short but exciting list consisted of the titels: Laura, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Lady in the Dark, and Black Narcissus. Even more exciting, the latter three films are color nitrate stock. Due to Kodak ceasing nitrate producing in 1950, color prints are far less common than earlier black and white films.
In order to accommodate this endeavor, the projection booth at the Egyptian Theatre, where the films were shown, had to be remodeled to be brought up to modern construction codes. This was a collaboration between TCM, Martin Scorcese's The Film Foundation, Academy Film Archive, and the American Cinematheque. Additionally, the project also modified two 35mm projectors: they were connected to a large emergency button. In the case of a fire, when depressed, the button shuts off the projectors and activates metal fire shutters that encase the projection booth to isolate the fire.
While the project itself is exciting enough, the long lasting effects are even more enticing: because the Egyptian is now up to code, they have future plans to show nitrate films in their programming from time to time. This is fantastic news for those who have never seen nitrate projected – which is a large number of younger peoples – and has implications for increased access not only at this theatre, but proves that with some motivation, it is a possibility for other theatres and venues (funding available) as well.
-- Melanie Miller