Contact: Steve Leggett (202) 707-5912

October 16, 1996

Landmark Film Preservation Act Signed by President Clinton

On October 11, President Clinton signed into law H.R. 1734, "The National Film Preservation Act of 1996." This historic, bipartisan legislation will help to ensure the survival of America's rich motion picture heritage.

The legislation signed by the president does two important things: 1) it reauthorizes the National Film Preservation Board for seven years, and 2) creates a federally chartered, private National Film Preservation Foundation.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington lauded passage of H.R. 1734, calling it "of vital importance to film archives across the nation."

He said, "We are honored that Congress entrusted this independent foundation to the Library of Congress, which possesses the world's largest film collection (built over 100 years) and which for more than 25 years has had its own active film preservation program. We will continue our leadership role and discharge this new responsibility in ways benefiting all institutions in the film preservation arena, but will need strong support from the private sector and other film related organizations to make the most of this new opportunity.

Under provisions of the legislation, the Librarian will continue to name up to 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" films each year to the National Film Registry and seek archival copies of each film for preservation within the Library of Congress. In addition to advising on Registry selections, the National Film Preservation Board counsels the Librarian of Congress on implementation of the national film preservation plan, Redefining Film Preservation, published in 1994. In its seven years of existence, the Board has played a critical role in increasing the American public's awareness of film preservation and fostering increased cooperation among all parties in the motion picture community (film studios, film artists, nonprofit archives, educators and others), making certain film preservation efforts are effective and complementary. NFPB Chair Fay Kanin thanked Congress for reauthorizing the Board, thus confirming the success of its work. "Many remarkable individuals have served on the Board to date, and the results have been more far more successful than we could possibly have hoped. It's time to get back to work, however, for much remains to be done."

Title 2 of H.R. 1734 creates the independent private sector National Film Preservation Foundation to serve as a public- private partnership for film preservation. The foundation, modeled on other similar foundations created by Congress, will raise private funds (both cash and in kind contributions), match these with limited federal funds, and provide grants to nonprofit film archives, historical societies and other nonprofit institutions with film collections throughout the nation. Grants will focus on non Hollywood films and films without commercial protectors, including public domain films, silent films, documentaries, independent films, films of historical and regional importance, and films by or documenting minorities; these films are of vital educational and historical importance but possess little commercial value. Unlike Hollywood features, these films, commonly called "orphans," have no preservation benefactors and will not survive without public intervention. Congress has structured the foundation to be a lean private entity; no federal funds will be used for administrative expenses.

David Francis, Chief of the Library of Congress's Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, called on all portions of the film community to continue to rally behind the national plan. "Congress has given us a superb chance to save film history and we must not waste this opportunity. To make a successful movie requires thousands of persons working together. Building a foundation from the ground up will be no different and no less challenging."

Maxine Fleckner Ducey, President of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA), said, "AMIA would like to thank Congress and the administration for recognizing the enduring value of America's film heritage by establishing the National Film Preservation Foundation. In so doing, they have acknowledged the important work of film archivists throughout the country; and even more significantly, they have provided the archive community with our best hope for solving the crisis in film preservation."

Martin Scorsese, film director and film preservation champion, said, "This Foundation will be the ideal mechanism to ensure the long term preservation of America's film heritage, especially that portion not controlled by commercial interests. Serving as the much needed central fund raising repository and administrator of film preservation grants, the Foundation will unite the public and private sectors (studios, film producers and artists, archives, the educational community and others) in a cooperative effort to preserve American film. I, along with other film artists, plan to support the work of this Foundation actively and enthusiastically."

H.R. 1734 was introduced by Rep. Carlos Moorhead (R-Calif.) in the House of Representatives, while Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) served as the bill's primary sponsor in the Senate. Many other members from both parties helped achieve passage of the bill. Further information on the legislation can be obtained from Steve Leggett, Library of Congress, National Film Preservation Board, (202) 707-5912, fax (202) 707 2371; email: [email protected]; or the Internet home page of the National Film Preservation Board:

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PR 96-144
ISSN 0731-3527

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