Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre will soon have the capability to screen “rare and fragile” 35mm nitrate film prints thanks to a film preservation project undertaken by The Film Foundation, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and Turner Classic Movies, in conjunction with the American Cinematheque.
“When I was told that one of the most beautiful movie theaters in the country could be retrofitted for nitrate projection, I was overjoyed, moved, and excited by the potential,” said Martin Scorsese, founder and chair of The Film Foundation. “I hope that this is the beginning of a trend.”
Cellulose nitrate was the standard film stock in commercial use prior to 1951. Though beloved by buffs for its vivid image quality, cellulose nitrate is flammable and was replaced by cellulose acetate safety film. Though old nitrate prints survive in controlled vault environments, few theaters are equipped to screen them.
Scorsese praised the stock for its “luminosity and a richness that was never quite matched by the safer stocks that followed or their digital reproductions.”
Rick Nicita, chairman of American Cinematheque, which owns the 1922 Egyptian, said the project will enable the theater “to show every film format possible. A state-of-the-art digital projector will sit side-by-side with our 35mm/70mm machines – representing the rich history of cinema, as well as the future of the art form.” The new nitrate-safe projection booth at the Egyptian, designed by BAR Architects, has begun construction, with the retrofit scheduled for completion in fall of 2016.
“Needless to say,” said Scorsese, “I’m eager for the completion of the necessary work so that I can see those glorious images projected in that one-of-a-kind theater.”