Saturday, March 10, 2018

What Exacty Is Nitrate Film? What Makes It So Special?

In Partnership with George Eastman Museum and the Academy Film Archive, 
the American Cinematheque Will Exhibit Two Nitrate Film Prints to the Public 
at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood in March

Presented in partnership with George Eastman Museum and the 
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Director Carol Reed gives young actor Bobby Henrey direction on the set of THE FALLEN IDOL. Photo: Getty
About Nitrate Film:

Film prints are no longer made on nitrate film stock and haven't been since the 1950s. It is a coveted format that cineastes enjoy seeing projected as it has a particular picture quality. Surviving nitrate films have to be kept in special storage conditions. Nitrate film will even continue burning underwater. In the first half of the 20th century, nitrate was a widely used film base, despite the danger of combustion. Nitrate was the first material that was flexible, strong and transparent enough to carry motion picture frames through the wheels and gates of a motion picture projector.

Eastman Kodak was the first to make that film and sell it to the public, in the 1880s. When projected onto a screen, it created luminous, sharp and subtle images, but at a price. 

The extreme heat generated by movie projectors often ignited the nitrate film that ran through them, and several such incidents killed and injured movie patrons by fire, smoke, or the resulting stampede. The danger of the job actually forced projectionists to unionize. They were often trapped in unsafe conditions in the projection booth with no easy means of escape during a fire. Director Giuseppe Tornatore's Golden Globe and Academy Award winner for Best Foreign-Language Film, Cinema Paradiso (Italy, 1988) recreated such an incident, in the story of the friendship of a boy and a movie theatre projectionist in a small town in the era of nitrate film stock. Even after the movie industry switched to a safe, acetate-based film stock around 1950, the dangers of nitrate were not over. In 1978 the National Film Archives in Washington and the Kodak collection in the George Eastman Museum had their nitrate films auto-ignite, with a tremendous loss of irreplaceable movies.

The only way to show historical nitrate prints today, is to do so in a specially built, fire-and-explosion proof projection booth, which few film preservation and exhibition institutes can afford.

This is why the preservation-minded HFPA teamed with the American Cinematheque, headquartered in the historic Egyptian Theater (1922) in Hollywood, and donated the funds to build a modern, safe nitrate projection booth. Nitrate film is classified as "dangerous goods", which requires licenses for storage and transportation. Nitrate prints must be stored separately in a fireproof room, the movie theater has to pass rigorous safety standards and precautions before being certified to show nitrate films; this includes a fireproof projection booth, fire chambers surrounding the feed and take-up reels, and several fire extinguishers built into the projector and aimed at the projector's film gate.
Join our American Cinematheque Nitrate Screenings!

In 2016, the American Cinematheque was given a grant by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, in a partnership with Turner Classic Movies, The Film Foundation and the Academy Film Archive, to do the fire-proofing modifications necessary to exhibit highly flammable nitrate based films from the projection booth at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

Due to the rarity of these prints, it is a special occasion when one is screened to the public. On Friday, March 16 at 7:30 PM, the American Cinematheque will show an archival 35mm nitrate print of THE FALLEN IDOL (1948), directed by Carol Reed, from the George Eastman Museum and on Sunday, March 18 at 7:30 PM, there will be a screening of the 1947 Technicolor film BLACK NARCISSUS, which is also an archival 35mm nitrate print, from the collection of, the Academy Film Archive.

To learn more about these screenings, please visit our website at: 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

American Cinematheque Oscar-Nominated Guests

With awards season now behind us, we take a look back at the many Oscar-nominated guests that have joined us in person in the past year. We are fortunate to have been joined by all of the 2018 Oscar Nominated directors, all the nominated Art Directors, Set Decorators, Film Editors as well as several Oscar winners! Below, enjoy a selection of photographs taken in-house at our Egyptian and Aero Theatres accompanied by words of wisdom they so graciously shared with our audience members. 

2018 Oscar Nominees and Winners 

BEST LEAD ACTOR, Gary Oldman. 

"To be Churchill was such a joy - to be in this movie. He had a great sense of humor...a sparkle in his eye, he was boyish, cherubic.” Mr. Oldman went on an absolute winning streak having accumulated a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, a BAFTA Award and an Academy Awards for his leading role in THE DARKEST HOUR. 

Photographed on February 8th, 2018 at our Aero Theatre in Santa Monica by Andrea Macias-Jimenez. 


"Look for people with distinct vision. People who see beauty where others see nothing. If you really believe what they’re doing; you go towards their vision & start to learn things. You have a shift in how you see and with that shift- you become a different person.”

Photographed on January 13th, 2018 at our Egyptian Theatre in Andrea Macias-Jimenez. 

BEST DIRECTOR, Christopher Nolan. 
Nominee, DUNKIRK

“Every film should have its own world, a logic and feel to it that expands beyond the exact image that the audience is seeing.”

Photographed on February 13th, 2018 at our Aero Theatre in Santa Monica by Silvia Schablowski. 

BEST DIRECTOR, Jordan Peele. 
Nominee, GET OUT
Winner, Best Original Screenplay for GET OUT

"When the nominations came out, I had this amazing feeling of looking at the 12 year old that had this burning in my guts for this type of validation, and I instantly realized that an award like this is much bigger than me."

Photographed on February 13th, 2018 at our Aero Theatre in Santa Monica by Silvia Schablowski. Joran Peele won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for GET OUT at the 2018 ceremony. 

Nominee, LADYBIRD 

“It’s a really interesting journey; I wouldn’t trade it for anything. You don’t need to have a death grip on your passion. Your passion will find you.”

Photographed on February 10th, 2018 at our Aero Theatre in Santa Monica by Silvia Schablowski. 

BEST DIRECTOR, Paul Thomas Anderson.

"I really subscribe to that old adage that you should never let the audience get ahead of you for a second. So if the film’s abrasive and wrongfoots people then, y’know, that’s great. But I hope it involves an audience.” 

Photographed on February 13th, 2018 at our Aero Theatre in Santa Monica by Sean Byron. 

BEST DIRECTOR, Guillermo del Toro. 

“My movies are mostly graveyard poetry. This [ The Shape of Water] is different from what I’ve been making in the past 25 years.”

Photographed on January 20th, 2018 at our Egyptian Theatre by Mario Jennings. 

BEST FOREIGN FILM, “A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)“Loveless” (Russia), “The Square” (Sweden)

Four out of five nominated directors for BEST FOREIGN FILM joined us for a live symposium on January 6th. Sebastian Leilo, Oscar-winning director of A FANTASTIC WOMAN, poses with his leading lady, Daniela Vega. Throughout the year, the American Cinematheque shows a generous sampling of new films from around the world – some that go on to become Oscar nominees. New Films from Canada and from the European Union will be shown in April 2018. Re-watch the symposium here and check out photos of fellow nominees here

 Photographed on January 6th by Jared Cowan. 


Mr. Lee Smith, Academy Award-winning editor of DUNKIRK, joined us on March 3rd, 2018 at our Egyptian Theatre for our annual " Invisible Art, Visible Artists" seminar hosting all of the year's Oscar-Nominated editors. Fun fact: The nominees mentioned that they are generally happy not to edit on film stock anymore, but some have nostalgia for having to be more decisive before they touched the work print. Music, cooking, painting were named by these editors as inspiration for practicing their art!

 Photograph: Jenny Oetzell/SilverHub/Rex/Shutterstock

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN,  Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeffrey A. Melvin. 

Mrs. Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeffrey A. Melvin, who took home the Oscar for their work on THE SHAPE OF WATER, joined us on March 3rd, 2018 at our Egyptian Theatre for our annual "Art of Production Design" panel featuring all of this year's nominees. 

 Photograph courtesy of ABC's Academy Awards telecast. 


Cinematographer Rachel Morrison joined us at our Aero Theatre on February 12th for our screening of MUDBOUND. Ms. Morrison has made Oscar history as she is the first woman to be nominated for a Cinematography Academy Award.

 Photograph courtesy of ABC News. 


We were honored to host Agnes Varda on October 21st, 2017 for a special screening of THE GLEANERS AND I / VAGABOND. Once she took the Egyptian Theatre stage and her standing ovation finally quieted down, she remarked how coming into our theatre felt like coming home.

Photographed by Mario Jennings. 

With that, we close awards season and say congratulations to all the nominees and Oscar winners! We are honored to host the leading figures in our industry and look forward to the many more guests to come in the following year. 

Monday, February 26, 2018


According to Oscar-winning Doctor Dolittle composer/writer Leslie Bricusse, the 1967 musical fantasy was initially conceived as a reunion of the My Fair Lady Broadway team: star Rex Harrison, lyricist and book writer Alan Jay Lerner, composer Frederick Loewe, and director Moss Hart.

Dr. Dolittle, played by Rex Harrison, in the company of Chee-Chee the Chimpanzee, Polynesia the Parrot and, last but not least, the Great Pink Sea Snail! 

Bricusse and the film’s leading lady Samantha Eggar will be on hand at the Aero Theatre Saturday, March 3, 2018 after a matinee screening of gorgeous new 4K restoration of Doctor Dolittle, the 1967 musical based on Hugh Lofting’s famous stories about a Victorian British doctor who can talk to animals – including a giant pink sea snail!

Thursday, February 15, 2018


“Pilgrims” would perhaps be a fitting term to describe the horde of fans who flocked to the Egyptian Theatre to witness the surreal cinema of Alejandro Jodorowsky, and see the master himself in a rare appearance (his first time in Los Angeles in twenty years). The first feature of the evening, The Holy Mountain, was about a spiritual quest, and one could sense a similar ambition in the air tonight from the moviegoers themselves. One had flown in all the way from New York to see him. The appeal, according to one fan, was “the sheer surrealism, the trip that is THAT.” Another, less eloquent but no less fitting, was excited to see some movies he described as “weird as [expletive retracted]."

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

WISDOM FROM WISEAU, by Stephen Michaels

In 2003, Tommy Wiseau introduced himself to the world. While other cinematic visionaries started small – Hitchcock began as an art director and James Dean first starred in a soda commercial – Wiseau launched himself towards fame with the release of The Room. Akin to Orson Welles and Citizen Kane, Tommy Wiseau directed, wrote, produced, and starred in his feature debut. Although it took a few years for Hollywood to learn his name, The Room has now become a global phenomenon. On January 20, 2018, Tommy Wiseau started the new year with a Q & A, screening, and audience love-fest at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. After his December experience of two back-to-back, sold-out shows at the landmark movie palace, Wiseau declared that the Egyptian Theatre was now the home of The Rom. His next monthly screenings will take place on Saturday, February 24, 2018 at 7:30pm as well as 10:30pm. For the price of admission (and some official The Room merchandise), fans can take a photo with Tommy and have a brief private exchange with him.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Marvin Paige had the biggest Rolodex.

The colorful casting director of such films as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the daytime series General Hospital was the go-to guy for the American Cinematheque, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, TCM, and UCLA Film & Television Archive when they needed veteran performers or filmmakers for their programs

Since his death in 2013, the Cinematheque has honored his legacy annually with a special screening. And this Saturday, January 27, 2018, the Cinematheque is celebrating Marvin with a pre-screening reception followed by one of his favorite films, 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird with Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, Brock Peters, and Robert Duvall.