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Preservation Project Partnerships

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The Metro Theatre Center Foundation is committed to film preservation and saving the many millions of feet of film that are currently in danger of being lost due to lack of resources to preserve, restore and make these films available for study and research. We have begun a series of preservation projects, each dedicated to subject matter that is of interest to a specific demographic of the general public. We are now focused on an amazing collection of films, the home movies of the late David Eugene Bell. The project is being managed by seasoned professionals, and the completed restored films will be housed in the Special Collections Department of the Academy Film Archives (part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences). Here is some information about the team, and the project.

  • Ron Merk has been a producer-director-writer and distributor for more than four decades. His work has won numerous awards around the world. Ron has also been a passionate supporter of film preservation, with major collections at MOMA, UCLA and The Academy Film Archives.
  • Antonella Bonfanti is an Eastman House-trained film preservation speciailist with more then ten years in the field. She is highly respected within the film preservation community, and both teaches and speaks at conventions and symposia.
  • The preservation of the home movies of David Eugene Bell is the second project we are doing in a series of film preservation projects. Home movies are often the only record that we have of a place, a time or a person, and are unique depositories of culture and history. Mr. Bell was a well-known designer who worked at Bloomingdale’s in New York, and whose home movies documented the gay life from the late 40s – 80s. At a time where being gay could result in loss of job, home and even arrest, this is a unique look into the hidden world of being gay 60 years ago. Men romping nude on Fire Island or cavorting at private parties in New York demonsrate that Mr. Bell and his friends were willing to allow the cameras at their private gay events and this alone was an act of rare courage. The footage also contains 30 seconds never-before-seen color footage of the Robert F. Kennedy in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade in the mid-60s.
  • Like many home movies, these films has suffered from poor storage and care for many years and were affected by mold, which has been cleaned, but which leaves the films in a fragile, deteriorating condition. If we do no digitize and save these films now, this rare historical and social material will be lost forever, and can never be replaced.

What We Need & What You Get

  • To digitize the material to 2K resolution (which will also allow us to later re-transfer the material back to film for long-term preservation and storage) we need $12,500 to transfer the 70 reels of 8mm and Super 8mm film. Except for the cost of our preservation supplies and a small amount of in-house labor costs, almost all of the money will go directly to the lab which will be digitizing the material.
  • For an additional $7,500 we can also make motion picture film dupicates of the most important parts of the collection, an example of which would be the Robert F. Kennedy footage that no one new existed, and the best part of the film of Mr. Bell.

The Impact

  • With tens of millions of feet of film at archives, basements and attics all over the world waiting for preservation, and with time running out to save this material,k we hope to bring the plight of our soon-to-vanish culture and history to the public, and to get them involved. We have more than 150 collections of home movies with subject matter of interest to many demographics, including rare color footage of Cuba in the 30s and 40, a recently discovered home movie of MGM star, Spencer Tracy, color footage of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration, and rare black and white and color footage of many of the great cities of the world, including London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Istanbul and others, which captures unique looks at “the way we were.”
  • The first project we did in this same area is the preservation of 16mm color home movie of the famous film comedian, Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy). Shot in 1965 at his home, it was one of the last times Stan ever appeared on camera. With help form the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the film was restored and preserved. With the recent help of Nordisk (Copenhagen) additional digital restoration was done to remove dirt and damage, and to sharpen the image. The fuly restored film was screened the the 2013 Silent Film Festival at the Castro Theatre as part of the Kings of Silent Comedy program. The film has been seen recently in a brand-new documentary made for German TV and continue to delight movie fans all over the world with the work of this great star.
  • Everyone makes home movies, although to day we do it with cell phones and digital cameras. Have you ever thought what will happen to those films of your life if they are not saved or properly preserved? Home movies are universally understood as a special way we look at ourselves, and where we came from. If we don’t draw attention to this unique form of filmmaking by preserving home movies of the past, do you think that anyone in the future will be concerned about the home movies of the present. The world’s attention needs to be brought to the plight of our recorded history which is so easily lost due to poor care, the ravages of time, and changing technologies.

How You Can Help

It’s very simple. We need the money to save these films before they are lost. If you’re interested in supporting or sponsoring this project, please contact Ron Merk at the following e-mail: Naming rights are available to the collection for a major donor.