March 9th, 2012
Thomas Doherty, a professor of film studies in the American Studies program, recently published an essay on the Oscars and the demise of 35mm film. Doherty is the author of five books on American film and television, including most recently Hollywood’s Censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration. The essay was published by the History News Network. Titled “The Last Bow for 35mm Film,” it begins:
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its annual candidates for the gold stature on January 24, it came as no surprise that Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo dominated the rankings. It will be a surprise if neither grabs top honors when the global extravaganza is broadcast on Feburary 26. Both are excellent films, but I think the reason the motion picture professionals in Hollywood took this particular double bill to heart is that both are about a fading legacy of movie history—35mm projection. 2011 marked a tipping point year for a motion picture revolution that has been unreeling since the changeover from the twentieth to the twenty-first century: the replacement of venerable old celluloid film with high-def digital imagery at your local multiplex. Texas Instruments, the outfit overseeing a lot of the re-tooling in America, estimates that over half of U.S. projection booths have now gone digital with the march to a complete transition as inevitable as a sequel in summertime.