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What happens to all the copies of films after they've run their course

Big Harrison Ford confusion on Hollywood Walk of Fame

One copy of Star Wars contains about 20,000 feet of film. - Image by Rick Geary
One copy of Star Wars contains about 20,000 feet of film.

Hey, Matthew: What happens to all the copies of films after they've run their course? Take for instance a movie such as the rereleased Star Wars. It was probably showing in ten theaters in San Diego, multiply that by all the films floating around the country, well, that adds up to... a lot of film stock. So after it has run overseas, they all probably get back to Hollywood at some time. Considering all the movies filmed through the years, that's a lot of film to store somewhere. They must have one heck of a warehouse somewhere in L.A. Enlighten me, Matt! — Bbhud007, the Net

Dear Matthew Alice: I'd like to know what these abbreviations stand for in the film industry: ACE (film editor's credits), ASC and BCE (director of photography credits). — Vlasta Filipasic, Oceanside

Memo to Self: Check resolution of big Harrison Ford confusion on Hollywood Walk of Fame. — Matthew Alice

Fifty, 60, 70 years ago, we addressed the Problem of the Colliding Fords, that is, how the Hollywood Walk of Fame would distinguish between the sidewalk stars for old-timey, silent-screen actor Harrison Ford and the new-timey Indiana Jones Harrison Ford (no relation). Old Harrison received his star in 1959, the year the walk was inaugurated; Young Harrison was only months away from receiving his star at the time we inquired. At the time, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce hadn’t a clue about how it would distinguish between the two and seemed disinclined to speculate.

(Imagine dreamlike scene of calendar pages flipping by, year by year. Tight focus on Wednesday, April 23,1997. Cut to “Memo to Self’ on desktop.) So by now they’ve been forced to make a decision. We just need to dial them up and find out what it was, yes? No. Seems Young Harrison is still starless. He never scheduled a specific time for the ceremony because he believed he already had a Walk of Fame star (presumably, Old Harrison’s). The chamber says the confusion’s now cleared up, but they still haven’t heard from Harrison the Younger to set an installation date.

He will definitely get his own star. The chamber won’t palm off the old one as the new, though the average WoF gawker probably believes Old Harrison’s honors New Harrison anyway. The chamber hasn’t yet manufactured Harrison II’s star, and they still have no idea how they’ll make it unique. If you have any suggestions, they obviously could use some. We warned them about this years ago, but they keep putting it off....

After stirring things up at the chamber, we tried the Fox folks to find out what will happen to Star Wars when it goes out of general distribution. Well, you’d think we’d asked to snoop through the studio’s accounting files or borrow the CEO’s credit cards. You could hear sirens going off and steel doors clanging shut the minute the question was out of my mouth. We finally got the info by swearing our operative to absolute anonymity, since they had to lie to the Fox source in order to get it. I’m not kidding. I wish I were. Hollywood is so full of paranoid babies.

For any mainstream movie like Star Wars or Independence Day, Fox will make anywhere from 1500 to 3000 copies during its life in general distribution. Depending on how carefully the film is handled, a single copy can last through 8 to 10 weeks of showings. Once the studio’s squeezed out the last possible American moviegoer dollar, the copies go back to the studio, three are stored in a vault along with the master copy, and the rest are junked. Sometimes a few of the extra copies are refurbished and released to the world market, but eventually, all but the master plus three are destroyed. One copy of Star Wars contains about 20,000 feet of film, so that’s 80,000 per title that end up in a warehouse. If this is typical of the industry, 39,960,000 feet (6219 miles) of film went into storage in 1996 from 412 domestic releases. There are many, many film vaults and warehouses all over L.A. And I trust these disclosures will not bring the entire industry crashing down around Hollywood’s paranoid-baby ears.

And if you’re a paranoid baby with “ACE” after your name, you’re a TV or motion picture film editor good enough at cutting and splicing to be invited to join the American Cinema Editors professional organization. ASC, another by-invite-only group, is the American Society of Cinematographers, though you don’t have to be American to be asked; you might be British and also belong to the BCE.

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One copy of Star Wars contains about 20,000 feet of film. - Image by Rick Geary
One copy of Star Wars contains about 20,000 feet of film.

Hey, Matthew: What happens to all the copies of films after they've run their course? Take for instance a movie such as the rereleased Star Wars. It was probably showing in ten theaters in San Diego, multiply that by all the films floating around the country, well, that adds up to... a lot of film stock. So after it has run overseas, they all probably get back to Hollywood at some time. Considering all the movies filmed through the years, that's a lot of film to store somewhere. They must have one heck of a warehouse somewhere in L.A. Enlighten me, Matt! — Bbhud007, the Net

Dear Matthew Alice: I'd like to know what these abbreviations stand for in the film industry: ACE (film editor's credits), ASC and BCE (director of photography credits). — Vlasta Filipasic, Oceanside

Memo to Self: Check resolution of big Harrison Ford confusion on Hollywood Walk of Fame. — Matthew Alice

Fifty, 60, 70 years ago, we addressed the Problem of the Colliding Fords, that is, how the Hollywood Walk of Fame would distinguish between the sidewalk stars for old-timey, silent-screen actor Harrison Ford and the new-timey Indiana Jones Harrison Ford (no relation). Old Harrison received his star in 1959, the year the walk was inaugurated; Young Harrison was only months away from receiving his star at the time we inquired. At the time, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce hadn’t a clue about how it would distinguish between the two and seemed disinclined to speculate.

(Imagine dreamlike scene of calendar pages flipping by, year by year. Tight focus on Wednesday, April 23,1997. Cut to “Memo to Self’ on desktop.) So by now they’ve been forced to make a decision. We just need to dial them up and find out what it was, yes? No. Seems Young Harrison is still starless. He never scheduled a specific time for the ceremony because he believed he already had a Walk of Fame star (presumably, Old Harrison’s). The chamber says the confusion’s now cleared up, but they still haven’t heard from Harrison the Younger to set an installation date.

He will definitely get his own star. The chamber won’t palm off the old one as the new, though the average WoF gawker probably believes Old Harrison’s honors New Harrison anyway. The chamber hasn’t yet manufactured Harrison II’s star, and they still have no idea how they’ll make it unique. If you have any suggestions, they obviously could use some. We warned them about this years ago, but they keep putting it off....

After stirring things up at the chamber, we tried the Fox folks to find out what will happen to Star Wars when it goes out of general distribution. Well, you’d think we’d asked to snoop through the studio’s accounting files or borrow the CEO’s credit cards. You could hear sirens going off and steel doors clanging shut the minute the question was out of my mouth. We finally got the info by swearing our operative to absolute anonymity, since they had to lie to the Fox source in order to get it. I’m not kidding. I wish I were. Hollywood is so full of paranoid babies.

For any mainstream movie like Star Wars or Independence Day, Fox will make anywhere from 1500 to 3000 copies during its life in general distribution. Depending on how carefully the film is handled, a single copy can last through 8 to 10 weeks of showings. Once the studio’s squeezed out the last possible American moviegoer dollar, the copies go back to the studio, three are stored in a vault along with the master copy, and the rest are junked. Sometimes a few of the extra copies are refurbished and released to the world market, but eventually, all but the master plus three are destroyed. One copy of Star Wars contains about 20,000 feet of film, so that’s 80,000 per title that end up in a warehouse. If this is typical of the industry, 39,960,000 feet (6219 miles) of film went into storage in 1996 from 412 domestic releases. There are many, many film vaults and warehouses all over L.A. And I trust these disclosures will not bring the entire industry crashing down around Hollywood’s paranoid-baby ears.

And if you’re a paranoid baby with “ACE” after your name, you’re a TV or motion picture film editor good enough at cutting and splicing to be invited to join the American Cinema Editors professional organization. ASC, another by-invite-only group, is the American Society of Cinematographers, though you don’t have to be American to be asked; you might be British and also belong to the BCE.

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