Saturday, June 28, 2014

More on The Alamo & Chris Hamby's "ATM" mentioned in "The Digital Bits"

*William Randolph Hearst, 1960 (from Motion Picture Daily).
You may have heard about the well-known DVD/Blu-Ray information site The Digital Bits.   In relation to the ongoing struggle of the restoration status of The Alamo (1960), another story about the film's preservation issue was mentioned on the site- as reported by Bill Hunt in his My 2 Cents column.

If you've read the recent June 27th edition of Hunt's column, you might have noticed something.  My blog, At The Matinee was mentioned in Hunt's article- regarding to the two posts that I did on MGM's negligence in restoring The Alamo. Being mentioned after the Northwest Chicago Film Society on The Digital Bits was a triumphant feat, especially for an upstart blog on classic/contemporary film and media.

Back to The Alamo:  According to recent sources, John Wayne's The Alamo is starting to receive significant attention from the motion picture community (along with fellow classic film enthusiasts). Entertainment columnist Jeffery Wells and his website, Hollywood Elsewhere- is taking note of MGM and its studio leaders' ignorance.  At this point, it seems like the current incarnation of the studio only cares about pleasing their shareholders instead of restoring the company's backlog of vintage feature films (from their United Artists holdings).

Wells has also mentioned that a letter has been drafted to MGM head Gary Barber about The Alamo, and numerous directors have signed it- including Guillermo del Toro and J.J. Abrams.

KENS-TV has mentioned about the film being in danger, in relation to a recent appearance by legendary award-winning musician Phil Collins at the "real" Alamo.  Collins was in San Antonio this past Thursday to donate his personal collection of artifacts and manuscripts (related to the 1836 battle) to the State of Texas.  He is aware of the 1960 film being in danger, but has not been approached by the film community for input on preservation of the motion picture.

Still, if you haven't approached MGM (via the studio's Facebook and Twitter feeds)- keep on pressuring them (in a positive manner) to preserve all versions of The Alamo.  The vintage John Wayne western should not be neglected, and should be preserved for all generations to see.  MGM- no more excuses, the film should be preserved immediately.

*A special "thank you" to columnist Bill Hunt and The Digital Bits for mentioning my blog, At The Matinee!  Keep up the good work!

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 24th: Primary Election Day (Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Utah)

Vintage Ad Council billboard for Voter Registration.
Source: Duke University Libraries
June 24th is Primary Election day in the following states- Maryland (home base of ATM), New York, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Utah.  Be sure to get out and vote in the primary election (if you reside in one of the aforementioned states).

If you've studied the candidates for office (and their policies/goals), that's great.  Don't stay home all day long- just get out and vote in the primary (if you reside in Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, Colorado, or Utah).  

Don't forget- regardless of party or platform, every vote counts!  A public service message from the management of At The Matinee.

More Developments in Film & Media Preservation

Re-Release poster for John Wayne's
The Alamo (1960).
SAVING “THE ALAMO” (PART II): If you've read the May 30th edition of At The Matinee*, then you may have known about MGM’s negligence on preserving John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960).  According to a recent column on The Digital Bits, reporter Bill Hunt examined recent tests with film restoration expert Robert A. Harris.

The feature film is in need of restoration, but thanks to Harris' tests- The Alamo could be saved if MGM would let outside film experts work on preserving the vintage John Wayne western (for possible theatrical re-release and on Blu-Ray Disc).  Prior to the current Digital Bits article, a new Facebook site titled Save The Alamo has addressed MGM's refusal, and how film buffs should encourage the studio (via their Facebook & Twitter accounts) in restoring the complete film.

A recent report from Time Warner Cable's public access channel in Austin, Texas had an interview with area resident Richard Curilla.  Curilla viewed The Alamo on the big screen in 1960 (he viewed the film thirteen times), in its original 70mm Todd-AO "roadshow" format.  Because of his interest in the film, he would go on to study film at Penn State, and would take interest in the actual history of the battle of the Alamo.

Many years later, he would become the official caretaker of the private ranch where the film was shot (west of San Antonio).  Curilla (along with area radio talk show host Trey Ware) would like MGM to restore The Alamo immediately.  Joey DeAngelis' Silent Film Saturday has also addressed how MGM should have the film (roadshow and general release versions) preserved for all generations.

If you haven't already, keep posting onto MGM's Facebook and Twitter accounts (in a positive manner) to let the studio know that John Wayne's The Alamo should be preserved- not neglected.  The only other way is to address The Library of Congress' National Film Preservation Board- so that the film can be added to the National Film Registry.

Again, MGM should not let The Alamo rot in its vaults.  They (along with the assistance of outside restoration experts) should preserve the vintage John Wayne film immediately.

*At The Matinee's May 30th edition (about the preservation status on The Alamo) was the most-viewed blog entry out of all posts on the site, and has received significant praise from fellow friends and film enthusiasts.

RARE COLUMBIA "SHORT SUBJECT" ON THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES: Most people know about Columbia Pictures' "short subject" releases, mostly The Three Stooges, Buster Keaton's short films, the Captain Midnight serials, and the later short films of comedian Charley Chase.  Besides those, a rare Columbia short- under the Washington On Parade series (showcased in a newsreel-style presentation) has popped up on the official YouTube channel of The National Archives & Records Administration.

In honor of the agency's 80th anniversary, the National Archives* has put up the Columbia short from 1940- titled The Archives.  It is a fascinating look at the Archives building in Washington, D.C., along with scenes of preservationists restoring paper manuscripts, archivists examining a film of President Theodore Roosevelt, and a technician transferring a disc sound recording of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's inauguration.

The classic short has been recently mastered in High-Definition (for YouTube exhibition), and it looks great (though some sections of the soundtrack could be repaired).  At The Matinee is unsure if any shorts (from the Washington on Parade series) were syndicated in later Columbia (Screen Gems) television packages, though the studio's vintage comedy shorts and serials were common on TV in the late 1950's.  Let's hope that Sony will consider issuing a set of these (possibly through their Choice Collection of vintage Columbia titles) sometime in the near future.

*The author of this blog went on a tour of the Archives building (during a political group field trip to the District while attending Frederick Community College) in 2008.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Technology Corner: Five Years Ago- The Digital TV Transition

Screenshot of this author's portable 7" Haier Digital TV, which is
great for power outages (and for picking up DTV signals
in other areas when traveling).

Promotional picture for PBS' DTV Readiness Campaign,
with Norm Abram & Kevin O'Connor of This Old House.
June 12, 2009: I can't believe that the transition to Digital Television took place five years ago, yet it seems like it happened yesterday.

It was a day in history, as the nation's full-powered broadcast television stations shifted from the NTSC analog broadcast standard to exclusive telecasts in the ATSC digital broadcast standard. The mandated transition was supposed to take effect in February of the same year, but Congress extended the deadline to make sure that everyone was prepared for the switch-over.  While our other sets in the household were ready (via cable), my family and I purchased a digital converter box for our non-cable Zenith set.

On the day of the transition, I did not get to witness the Washington/Baltimore area stations shutting off their analog transmissions. I was busy working for Frederick Community College's "Ambassador Scholarship" program- covering a charity golf game (with other fellow students in the program) for prominent golfers and college donors.  As the various participants in the charity game went over to our refreshment station (at the Glade Valley Golf Club) for discussion, I asked the players if their TV sets were ready for the Digital switch-over.  Only a few knew about the transition on that day, many were not aware that June 12th was the date for the switch to digital.

I had learned that the Washington stations shut off their analog transmitters around Noon on that day.  Most of the local stations did a quick cut-off (to allow for full-powered digital telecasting). An example of one area station's "farewell" to analog broadcasting (WTTG Channel 5*) can be seen here, along with a vintage DuMont test pattern.

Though five years have passed in Digital TV Broadcasting, there have been many advancements in this field, and the introduction of digital sub-channels for local stations (to compliment their main High-Definition channel, such as MeTVAntenna TVMovies!, etc.).

Unfortunately, there are negative sides to the ATSC standard- the picture quality may be perfect, or you may not receive anything.  At The Matinee's home base is in a "digital dead zone" for crystal-clear over-the-air reception (for the Zenith). A standard for "Mobile DTV" is still being debated, yet streaming may be the other "wave of the future" for television broadcasting.

As most people in the nation have been dropping cable and satellite (due to outrageous fees and crummy service, in this author's view), this author thinks that that over-the-air Digital Television broadcasting is still  thriving in this day and age.  Though, they could have come up with a "lossless" digital broadcast standard to reduce signal loss.   I still can't believe the transition took place five years ago.

*WTTG was named after DuMont chief engineer Thomas T. Goldsmith, the network lasted from 1946 to 1956. Channel 5 (and its New York sister station) were independent stations, and would be part of John Kluge's Metromedia group (originally known as Metropolitan Broadcasting).  Kluge would then sell the Metromedia independent stations to controversial Australian tabloid mogul Rupert Murdoch in 1986, which played into the formation of the "Fox Network" (adapted after Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, which Murdoch acquired in 1984).  WTTG has been broadcasting out of its present Wisconsin Avenue facility since 1964 (which also served as Washington offices for Metromedia).