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Summary:

The march of time and the advance of content formats is leaving thousands of old movies unwatchable. Now the British Film Institute will digitise many to preserve them and make them available online.

Cinema popcorn
photo: hirotomo

The British Film Institute (BFI) will spend around £49.5 million ($79.7 million) over the next five years to digitise 10,000 classic movies it says are crucial to UK cultural heritage.

According to the BFI’s five-year plan:

“Although many works from British cinema’s rich history are available on DVD or to download, a very significant number are inaccessible. We urgently need to digitise our moving image heritage otherwise many works could be lost forever and become inaccessible as cinemas rapidly move to digital, leaving many works left stranded in the analogue domain.

We will host a service on bfi.org.uk that identifies all British works and shows users where they can be viewed – by linking to the digital platforms of individual archives, by displaying links to cinema programmes UK-wide, and linking to DVD catalogues and VoD services.

“We will also host many titles for free on the BFI’s YouTube channel, significantly increasing the volume of titles available.”

Three years ago, the BFI and the BBC announced a partnership through which they would make the BFI’s archive available through BBC services. Nothing has apparently come of that.

The BFI’s plan says its programme will, “for the first time ever, involve the public in selecting what is digitised“. The BFI is a publicly-endorsed charity funded mostly by taxpayers.

  1. Has Roly become CEO-designate BFI as well as becoming the Chief Executive of the British Library? I must have missed that announcement.

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