Studio assesses damage of backlot blaze
Universal is coming to terms with what it lost in Sunday’s fire.The studio sent out memos to film bookers on Tuesday that stated “nearly 100% of the archive prints kept here on the lot” were destroyed. Those prints included “Flash Gordon,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “Out of Africa” that were housed in a vast vault destroyed on the studio’s backlot in the blaze. The vault contained up to 50,000 videos or film reels, as well as music recordings that were destroyed in the blaze. However, the studio is adamant that the contents of the destroyed vault only contained digital or film copies; All master negatives of classic films are kept elsewhere as part of the studio’s film preservation strategy. Those most affected by the loss of the prints are smaller film festivals or repertory theaters that screened older movies from U’s film library. For example, Mike Schlesinger, who organizes Cinecon, a classic film fest that runs over Labor Day weekend at the Egyptian, said, “This is a catastrophe on general principle and for Cinecon in particular. Universal was our principal supplier for the last few years, and this year we had upwards of a dozen pictures, or 40% of the schedule, from them. This will affect all of us for years to come.” The studio will “be unable to honor any film bookings of prints that were set to ship from here,” said Paul Ginsburg, VP of NBC Universal Distribution. “Over the next few weeks and months we will be able to try to piece together what material we do have and if any prints exist elsewhere.” If the prints were to be shipped from the studio, those are now canceled. However, Deluxe shipments will still be delivered.