2ND UPDATE: Fox gave me this statement Wednesday night: “Contrary to implications, we are passionate about film history and about our fox history in particular. That’s why we maintain one of the best and most costly photo archive departments in the business and keep comprehensive prop, art and film item archives from our films. It’s why we organized the benefit for the motion picture home a couple years ago with Swann curating even our old contracts. That, however, is not what the research library is. Rather, it contains a number of general reference, broad interest books and periodicals, like a public library. That collection will be donated to a proper, curated library at a university or a guild, etc., where the public will have even greater access than they do now. The material will be taken care of in a first-class manner. As to the nostalgia that people feel for the days when studios were in many such non-movie specific businesses, we share it, too, and wish the world were still that way, but it’s a muddling of points to lump this change into laments about lost film history, as it’s not what it is.”
UPDATE: I’m receiving a lot of emails and comments from Hollywood folks who say that, contrary to 20th Century Fox’s claims, the studio’s film research library was constantly in use by both Fox personnel and outsiders. I hear Clint Eastwood is unhappy, too, because research for his Flags Of Our Fathers was done there. Also, Warner’s research library is said to still be alive and well and open.
EXCLUSIVE: I have confirmed that 20th Century Fox is very quietly shutting its film research library after 85 years in existence, the second-to-last such facility at a Hollywood studio making available books, drawings, photographs, scrapbooks, samples, and other one-of-a-kind materials. (Most of the other studio libraries have been closed or sold off except for the Samuel Goldwyn Research Library, owned and managed by Lillian Michelson, and housed on the DreamWorks Animation lot, and Warner’s studio library.) “This is film history used and recycled everyday and also Los Angeles history,” an insider tells me. “Once this goes, it’s gone.” I’m especially surprised by this decision not only because Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman Tom Rothman considers himself something of a film historian, but also because I’m told the cost of keeping the library open is negligible. But what the film community loses is priceless access to archive material by art directors, costume designers and film historians. “I cannot tell you how serious this is to the below-the-line people and creatives around town,” another source tells me. “There used to be wonderous film reference libraries at each studio. A designer could walk in, ask about damask curtains and get reams of data. Now there is none. I implore you to take up this matter.” Still another insider complains, “I guess Fox has to tighten its belt — or is it a noose?” However, 20th is claiming that the library is not used enough to justify its cost, and its “contents should be transferred to a more public resource so these materials are available to the entire film community rather than just confined to those on the Fox lot”.