There’s been a lot of talk over the past couple of years about the death of 35mm film, but there’s one area that often gets overlooked. What happens to the movies that aren’t welcome in the archives at UCLA or the Museum of Modern Art? What about the drive-in flicks and kung fu double features that never made it to DVD, let alone digital files? Aren’t they worth saving?
The American Genre Film Archive thinks so. The Austin-based archive was founded in 2009 with a mission of preserving “horror, sleaze, action, and independent regional filmmaking, as well as international genre cinema with an emphasis on films from Hong Kong.” Board members include directors Paul Thomas Anderson and Nicholas Winding Refn (who is a collector of rare 35mm prints himself), as well as Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League. Many of the more than 3,000 prints housed in AGFA’s archive were quite literally saved from the incinerator—not to mention storage units, landfills, and trash barges headed for the ocean.
Now AGFA has launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund the digital preservation of some of the rarest titles in their archive,—titles that can’t be lent out, because AGFA’s copy is the only one that exists. AGFA advisor and Austin Film Society programmer Lars Nilsen says that “AGFA’s longer term goal is to one day carefully restore and strike new 35mm prints of these films. But for now, the main effort is to make sure they stay accessible for everyone and [are] not just sitting on a shelf.” First up is real-life astrologer Craig Denny’s self-financed 1975 “auto-biopic” The Astrologer. The reward option of programming the Alamo Drafthouse’s famous Terror Tuesday or Weird Wednesday series has already sold out, but contributors can still adopt a print in AGFA’s archive, have a shelf in the archive named after them, or, for $15, get a movie ticket to see the results of this labor of movie love.