At the Opening Night of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Ron Meyer, Vice Chairman of NBCUniversal, announced plans to restore 15 silent films created by Universal Pictures back when the studio was still in its infancy. The four-year project will be a collaborative effort involving the Library of Congress, The Film Foundation, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, George Eastman House, UCLA Film & Television Archives, Association of Moving Image Archivists, and Hollywood Heritage. Film historians, institutions, and preservationists will determine which films will be restored.
Founded in 1912, Universal Pictures was an active player in the silent film era. At the festival on May 28, Meyer discussed the studio’s responsibility and need to preserve their legacy. “This early art of filmmaking is the foundation on which Universal Pictures was built more than 100 years ago, and it’s important we honor our rich history,” said Meyer. They’ve demonstrated their commitment to doing just that since announcing the restoration project in 2012 during a centennial celebration. So far, they’ve restored almost 30 classic titles, including To Kill a Mockingbird, Dracula, and Schindler’s List. They plan to complete 25 more by 2017.
SFSFF was the perfect place for Universal Pictures to make their announcement, as the nonprofit aims to educate the public about “silent film as an art form and as a culturally valuable historical record.” They credit the medium with spawning the world’s love for movies, as well as influencing every generation of filmmakers. Unfortunately, silent films have not always enjoyed the respect that Universal Pictures is giving them now. A Library of Congress report states that 70 percent of them have been completely lost. The upcoming restoration project will help keep that number from growing, as well as secure important and iconic pieces of film history.