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Archive History

"The Archive is a vital part of the Los Angeles film scene and world-class contributor to the cause of film preservation." —Leonard Maltin

UCLA Film & Television Archive is the second largest moving image archive in the United States after the Library of Congress, and the world’s largest university-based media archive. We are committed to the preservation, research and exhibition of moving images. Screenwriter-director Curtis Hanson is the Archive's Honorary Chairman.

The Archive's Beginnings

In late-1965, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) joined forces with the UCLA Theater Arts Department to create the ATAS/UCLA Television Library. Three years later, Film Department faculty founded the Film Archive. In 1976, when Robert Rosen was named director of both organizations, UCLA Film & Television Archive was established as a joint venture.

During its early years, the Archive amassed a serious film collection with the donation of the Paramount Pictures Nitrate Print Library, which included almost all of the sound films the studio had produced between 1930 and 1950. This was soon followed by important acquisitions from all the major U.S. studios: Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Republic Pictures.

On the television end, in 1972 the Archive acquired the Jack Benny Television Collection, including all his series and specials, and the Hallmark Hall of Fame Collection. A short time later, Capitol Cities/ABC donated more than 24,000 television programs, which had aired from the early 1950s through the early 1970s, including Leave it to Beaver77 Sunset Strip, The Wonderful World of Disney, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and Peyton Place

In 1977, the Archive made two bold strokes—launching its preservation and restoration program with the hiring of Robert Gitt, soon to produce titles such as Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944), Josef von Sternberg's Blonde Venus (1932), Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep (1946) and Frank Borzage's Moonrise (1948); and an expansion of its campus film programming to screen a variety of films for the general public. The Archive achieved a national reputation for its exhibition of Hollywood classics, documentaries, contemporary independent productions and cutting edge works of international cinema.

The 1980s: Expansion and Acclaim

During the Eighties, the Archive expanded its preservation efforts to include animated films and John Ford westerns, and received worldwide acclaim for its restoration of Becky Sharp (1935), the first three-strip Technicolor feature. In 1981, the Archive became the permanent home to one of the most compelling and significant historical resources of the 20th century—the massive Hearst Metrotone News Collection, documenting the fabric of life from 1915-1975. The Archive provides footage from this collection to hundreds of films and television programs every year.

In 1988, the Archive staged its first biennial "UCLA Festival of Preservation," inviting the general public to screenings of the Archive’s recent restoration work. The Festival spans a century of moving image media, showcasing classic Hollywood features, television programs, newsreels, silent comedies, documentaries and contemporary independents.

“No other event in the country so consistently illuminates the irresistible hidden treasures of America’s movie heritage, putting a spotlight on drop-dead fascinating items unseen in decades, and difficult to see after the festival.” —Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

The following year, the Archive opened its Archive Research and Study Center (ARSC) in UCLA's Powell Library. ARSC provides free access to more than 10,000 collection items each year. Hundreds of books, films, plays, articles and scholarly monographs have been produced drawing on its resources.

In 1989, the Archive was awarded an Emmy Plaque for the restorations of An Evening with Fred Astaire (10/17/58), Another Evening with Fred Astaire (11/4/59) and Astaire Time (9/28/60), which “…exhibit a high level of engineering and are important to the progress of the industry.”

The 1990s and 2000s: Independent and Studio Classics

Scorpio Rising (1964)

At the start of the Nineties, the Archive launched its annual Celebration of Iranian Cinema, the first showcase for new Iranian films in the United States. In a public access milestone, the Archive became one of the first major moving image archives to make its catalog records searchable on the web. And it established the Sundance Collection at UCLA to provide long-term access to independent production, by having Sundance screened filmmakers voluntarily place prints of their work at UCLA. The Sundance Collection at UCLA is one part of a multi-faceted plan within the Archive for preserving, studying and exhibiting independent cinema and restoration projects have included Efraín Gutiérrez's Chicano Love is Forever (1977), Robert Epstein's The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) and films by Kenneth Anger. Closing the decade, the Archive acquired the Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, providing the Archive with its first in-house lab capabilities.

In the Aughts, the Archive won further accolades for its restorations of independent works by John Cassavetes, Charles Burnett (1977's Killer of Sheep) and Kent Mackenzie (1961's The Exiles); the latter two films won Film Heritage Awards from the National Society of Film Critics. In 2005, the Archive partnered with Outfest to create the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation, the largest publicly accessible collection of LGBT films in the world. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association presented the Archive a Legacy of Cinema award for the Project and its restoration of Bill Sherwood's Parting Glances (1986).

In 2003, the National Society of Film Critics presented a Special Citation to the Archive “…for its long-lived and heroic work in film preservation, restoration and resurrection, including its recent rehabilitation of rehearsal and test footage from director Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1955).” The Archive later received another Film Heritage Award for its restoration of Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes (1948).

New Millennium / New Initiatives

2002 marked the birth of the UCLA Moving Image Archive Studies (MIAS) graduate degree program. The program—jointly administered by Cinema and Media Studies, Information Studies and UCLA Film & Television Archive—was the first in North America designed specifically to train moving image archivists. The Archive plays an important role as a site for students to gain firsthand experience as they work with staff members regarding preservation and restoration, programming, cataloging, collections processing and other activities.

Beginning in 2005, UCLA Film & Television Archive began expanding its outreach by entering into the DVD market. In collaboration with S'more Entertainment, it released the first twenty-six episodes (plus the original pilot) of the 1950s television series, Mister Peepers, starring Wally Cox.  The release marked the first time that series had been seen anywhere since airing on broadcast television over 50 years ago and a second box set followed. In March 2010, the Archive and Shout! Factory released The Ultimate Goldbergs, featuring re-mastered versions of all seventy-one episodes of the landmark television series, The Goldbergs, written, produced and directed by Gertrude Berg. 

Thanks to a $5 million donation by Audrey L. Wilder, in December 2006 the Archive moved its public screenings to a new venue, the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum in Westwood Village. Over the previous two decades, UCLA’s film programming has become a bell-weather for art house and museum film programming across the nation. “Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film” delighted sold-out crowds in Los Angeles and then toured more than 20 prestigious venues and film festivals in the U.S., Canada and Europe. And the renowned "UCLA Festival of Preservation" inaugurated its first North American tour in 2009. 

In 2008, thanks to an extraordinary and ongoing partnership with the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI) and David Woodley Packard, the Archive's nitrate film holdings were moved to a new state-of the-art $39 million vault facility in Santa Clarita, California. The new vault was the first phase in a plan to build a fully developed preservation center with additional vaults for UCLA’s entire collection, as well as laboratories, workrooms and theaters with fiber-optic connections to UCLA.

Moving Forward / Looking Back

The Telluride Film Festival Special Medallion is awarded to "a hero of cinema—an organization or individual—that preserves, honors and presents great movies."

The Archive launched the new decade in 2010 with two major honors—the Special Medallion from the Telluride Film Festival, and a 24-hour showcase on Turner Classic Movies featuring "the extraordinary restoration and remastering work conducted by the Archive."

In conjunction with the MIAS program, and the French Institut National de l'Audiovisuel, France, the Archive staged its first international academic symposium in November 2010, “Reimagining the Archive: Remapping and Remixing Traditional Models in the Digital Era.”  This gathering at UCLA featured lectures and presentations by academics and practitioners from three continents, examining the ways the new digital era has impacted the evolution of archival practice, technology and research. Moving into the digital paradigm, the Archive launched a new website in 2011, which for the first time allowed the streaming of moving image content, and acquired several digital restoration suites, scanners, and other equipment that allow the Archive to restore select titles digitally. 

During the 2011 "UCLA Festival of Preservation," the Archive announced a new major preservation effort and new approach to fundraising with the establishment of the Laurel & Hardy Preservation Fund, allowing the general public to contribute directly to the restoration of the Boys' timeless classics. The Archive's efforts to restore all its surviving negatives has been met with resounding support from Laurel & Hardy fans around the world and great progress continues to be made. 

In September 2011, UCLA Film & Television Archive presented the groundbreaking film exhibition, “L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema,” as part of the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980” cultural initiative.  “L.A Rebellion” introduced the collective work of a group of African and African American filmmakers who had attended UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in the 1970s. These “L.A. Rebellion” filmmakers came to represent the first sustained undertaking to forge an alternative Black Cinema practice in the United States. More than 50 representative works ranging from well-known films securely in the canon to the obscure were screened, many for the first time since film school. Many of the newly restored and preserved prints would eventually be included in a nation-wide touring program that commenced in September 2012.