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Author Topic: Bad news regarding UK 16mm library
Adrian Winchester
Film God

Posts: 2919
From: Croydon, London, UK
Registered: Aug 2004


 - posted May 28, 2011 12:53 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Filmbank Distributors must have been the last UK library other than the BFI to hire out 16mm films. In response to a query a few days ago, I was told: "Unfortunately Filmbank no longer provides 16mm print. All 16mm titles were recalled back to the Studio a couple of years back."

I'd like to know what happened to them because it was a massive library - I'd estimate they had roughly about 5,000 features on offer, and of course the number of prints would have been considerably higher, as they would have generally had more than one copy.

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Adrian Winchester

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Simon McConway
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1077
From: Doncaster, UK
Registered: Jun 2004


 - posted May 29, 2011 04:40 PM      Profile for Simon McConway   Email Simon McConway   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Very interesting post, Adrian. I'd too like to know where all these prints went. The last time I hired was around 2001 and they had some very up-to-date titles back then. Might Steve at Derann know something? I can't believe that every print was required by one single "studio"?

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Adrian Winchester
Film God

Posts: 2919
From: Croydon, London, UK
Registered: Aug 2004


 - posted June 10, 2011 09:03 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I've received this depressing reply from the BFI:

"The old Filmbank 16mm library was cleared out a few years ago : some went out to Australia, I think, but most were scrapped. The cost of keeping the library in storage alone was draining their resources."

What a waste! I don't know what the norm was in terms of numbers of prints per title, but if it was around 4 on average, that could be 20,000 features destroyed. Don't the idiots making such decisions realise that some prints would be worth hundreds of pounds each?

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Adrian Winchester

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Joerg Polzfusz
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 815
From: Berlin, Germany, Europe, Earth, Solar System
Registered: Apr 2006


 - posted June 14, 2011 05:38 AM      Profile for Joerg Polzfusz   Author's Homepage   Email Joerg Polzfusz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
Don't the idiots making such decisions realise that some prints would be worth hundreds of pounds each?
I'm pretty sure that the contracts didn't allow Filmbank to sell the prints. (Same contracts as with the video rental stores and all the tapes/DVSs/blurays marked "not for sale, rental only".) And getting the licenses, ... would have probably lasted too long and might have cost more than the prints are worth...

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Michael O'Regan
Film God

Posts: 3084
From: Essex, UK
Registered: Oct 2007


 - posted June 14, 2011 06:39 AM      Profile for Michael O'Regan   Email Michael O'Regan   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The people making the decisions also probably have no idea that there are people who still collect film prints.

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Nick Field
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 102
From: Herefordshire England
Registered: Jul 2010


 - posted June 14, 2011 07:42 AM      Profile for Nick Field   Email Nick Field   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
What a complete and utter waste [Eek!]

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Den Brown
Master Film Handler

Posts: 271
From: London, UK
Registered: Apr 2007


 - posted June 14, 2011 03:16 PM      Profile for Den Brown   Email Den Brown   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I contacted a director about an old documentary I wanted and was told "what a shame, I just dumped a load of 16mm prints of that one into the trash".

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Adrian Winchester
Film God

Posts: 2919
From: Croydon, London, UK
Registered: Aug 2004


 - posted June 15, 2011 02:47 AM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I do take the point regarding licensing but after hearing this news, I needed to let off some steam! However futile it might be, this outcome could be considered a warning with regard to what might happen before long in relation to any major 16mm libraries that still exist, particularly Swank. If there's any indication of it coming to an end at some point, maybe some US dealers/collectors could make a pre-emptive move by offering them (e.g.) something like $200,000. A figure like that might be difficult to ignore; would save paying for destruction and would offer scope to pay different distributors owning rights a worthwhile royalty. And it would be satisfying to convince someone that old issues such as piracy and unauthorised public screenings are irrelevant now.

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Adrian Winchester

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Clive Carmock
Film Handler

Posts: 69
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2005


 - posted September 21, 2011 02:38 PM      Profile for Clive Carmock   Email Clive Carmock   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
A great shame - I remember hiring many 16mm prints from Filmbank, even back to the days when they were Rank Film Library.

About 5 years ago I approached them with a request to purchase a 16mm copy of Bless This House (mad I know but a film I have liked for years). They responded confirming they had 4 copies but were unable to sell any as the prints were actually owned by the studios.

They told me there ws no point in contacting Granada (who own the rights to the ex Rank catalogue) as they wouldn't agree to a sale. However I persevered and did contact Granada and was delighted to hear that if I was willing to sign a document to say I wouldn't attempt to copy or use the print for any commercial use then they would be willing to sell a copy, which they duly recalled from Filmbank and sent on to me.

Thankfully the copy was good- no sign of turning pink etc.

A shame to hear their 16mm library has now gone.

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Adrian Winchester
Film God

Posts: 2919
From: Croydon, London, UK
Registered: Aug 2004


 - posted September 21, 2011 07:54 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Clive - that's an astonishing story, probably the only time I've heard of someone being able to negotiate the purchase of a 16mm library print. Owning the film must seem miraculous if you think that if 4 prints of a title was typical, the other 3 and around 20,000 other features were destroyed about 3 years later! I wondered how much they charged you for it, and was the document you signed something they produced specially, or did they already have one for such situations? It goes to show how even in recent years, people make a special case for 16mm, as it would make more sense to ask everyone buying a DVD to sign such a document, considering how much easier a DVD would be to copy.

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Adrian Winchester

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Osi Osgood
Film God

Posts: 10158
From: #399R K.O.A. Mountian Home, ID. 83647
Registered: Jul 2005


 - posted September 22, 2011 12:57 PM      Profile for Osi Osgood   Author's Homepage   Email Osi Osgood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If I was a 16MM collector, I would certainly find out where the remaining 16MM libraries are, make a letter of petition concerning thier libraries, just to make sure that if they should close down, they would most certianly make an enormous amount of money selling instead of scraping them ...

...excpet for those prints that they are specifically liscensed to destroy upon closure. You can't do much about that.

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"All these moments will be lost in time, just like ... tears, in the rain. "

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Adrian Winchester
Film God

Posts: 2919
From: Croydon, London, UK
Registered: Aug 2004


 - posted September 22, 2011 03:41 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I encouraged collectors in the USA (on the 16mm forum) to try and do something before the just closed Criterion library is probably destroyed. I expect it's only a matter of time in relation to Swank too. I know the distibutors have their brains programmed to destroy when it comes to 16mm, but surely there's a chance that they might realise that copying and unauthorised screenings are far less likely to happen with 16mm now than with DVDs. Clive took the initiative and was rewarded - I only wish I'd done the same in relation to some of Filmbank's features!

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Adrian Winchester

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Clive Carmock
Film Handler

Posts: 69
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2005


 - posted September 23, 2011 05:13 PM      Profile for Clive Carmock   Email Clive Carmock   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Adrian. I was surprised I have to say. The lady I spoke to at Filmbank was very apologetic about their inability to sell to me. She even checked that the last time a Bless This House 16mm print had been rented from them was 'several' years earlier according to their database, but she explained they didn't actually own the prints. They were the property of the various distributors. She told me that the ex-Rank library was owned by Granada International but there was no point in contacting them as she had never known them to sell a print.

Not daunted I decided to set about finding out who to talk to and emailed their regional sales director appealing to their better judgement. Explaining that the prints had been sitting with Filmbank, unused for years, that this was an old title. Copies on Video/DVD were easily bought but it would make the day for this one film collector to have a 16mm copy, that has earned them nothing over the past few years.

A few days later I had an email back from their film Services manager telling me they had already recalled a 16mm print of the film from Filmbank, that they hadn't checked it so if I wanted it it would be in an 'unchecked' state. They would need to draw up a contract which they posted to me for signature, basically I had to agree not to use the print for any commercial gain, not attempt to copy the picture or soundtrack, and not to sell the print. The contract was not a standard document - appeared to be prepared for this one occasion.

If I agreed to that the print was mine for £50.

I duly sent them a cheque and the signed contract and a few days later a good quality print of the film arrived. Few slices in the first reel, but colour was great and all in all in very good condition.

It was a one off of course but nevertheless I managed to get 16mm copy to go alongside my (now fading) Powell 4x400ft Super 8mm copy.

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Adrian Winchester
Film God

Posts: 2919
From: Croydon, London, UK
Registered: Aug 2004


 - posted September 28, 2011 07:29 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Clive - thanks for the insight, what an extraordinary story! Staff at Filmbank must have been amazed too. £50 seems a surprisingly good price; I'm sure that the last time I hired a print from Filmbank in 2004, it cost me more than that, once the carriage and insurance was included. I wish Granada had then thought "Perhaps we can sell all of them for £50 each!"

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Adrian Winchester

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Lee Mannering
Film God

Posts: 3206
From: The Projection Box
Registered: Nov 2006


 - posted September 29, 2011 04:41 AM      Profile for Lee Mannering     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Nice to read all the above as I spent a happy evening last week looking through all my old 16mm hire catalogues fetching back a few memories. Seem to remember one guy years ago heard they were skipping prints after guillotining and spent some time sifting through them splicing films back together at home.

The old hire catalogues make very interesting reading don’t they Adrian from the likes of Watsofilms, Golden Films and more. My father used to hire from Watsofilms regularly and his recollection was of remaking splices more than anything which was a story he told that always tickled me. During wartime he had his Pathe 17.5 sound projector converted to 16mm to show public info films and he used to supplement these with a comedy film probably to help keep spirits up in WW2.
Carry on collecting. [Cool]

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