Academy Film Archive is an integral part and one of the most significant departments of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Located in the heart of Hollywood, within its oldest surviving structure, the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study facility of the Academy, the Archive boasts of housing, preserving and restoring an exceptionally diverse collection of motion pictures besides rich assemblage of other moving image materials like documentaries, shorts, private home movies of Hollywood legends and filmed and taped interviews of luminaries of cinema that speak volumes of the rich legacy of Hollywood and the world of cinema as a whole.
The Academy took initiative to keep film prints and archival papers in reserve decades ago, by collecting materials donated by members, right after the 1st Academy Awards ceremony that was presented by AMPAS in 1929. That year marked as the first when the Academy obtained its first film. The need to preserve motion picture history and to organize and supervise the educational and cultural pursuits of the AMPAS led to development of the Academy Film Archive almost a couple of decades later, in 1944. Four years later, members of a committee of the Academy embarked on a campaign to collect all films which till such time were nominated, including of course the winners, at the prestigious Academy Awards ceremony, besides several others that were deemed significant.
The Archive in its present form was established in 1991 and since 1994 it became an established rule to preserve at the Archive all Academy Award winning and nominated films and other noteworthy films thus obtained. Presently the Archive that is developing rapidly with each passing day, houses a diverse and sweeping collection of motion pictures. It is committed not only to the action of collecting films but also conserving, restoring, documenting and exhibiting them. As film stocks often decompose over time, dedicated members of the Archive constantly endeavors in reviving, restoring and protecting films from damage resorting to new technologies and methods to ensure that films that are of historical, cultural, technological and aesthetic significance remain accessible and viewable to present and future generations.
Vast collection of the Archive includes 107,000 titles and 230,000 different items, specifically
- A comprehensive collection of Academy Award winning and nominated films across categories
- A huge collection of documentaries, shorts and avant-garde movies, with the documentaries section including a collection of the International Documentary Association and those produced and distributed by the National Council on American-Soviet Friendship
- Film and video documentation on establishment, history and rich legacy of the Academy Awards, as also those of related public programs, lectures, symposia and presentations
- An entire collection of recordings of all the Academy Awards ceremonies, starting from 1949 including those recorded using kinescopes, besides special coverage and news material related with the events
- More than 90% of films that won Student Academy Awards as well as recordings of many of the Student Academy Awards ceremonies
- Collection of visual effects reels that convey a great deal about the way cinema embraced technology in enhancing and adding value to films; makeup and sound test reels; classical Hollywood cinema; recorded interviews and private home movies of legends of American cinema; as well as personal collections of filmmakers of the likes of Cecil B. DeMille, Alfred Hitchcock, George Stevens and Fred Zinnemann among others. Moving image collection of DeMille, considered the founding father of American cinema, that presently finds place at the Archive includes home films, outtakes, and never-before-seen test footage
- After the Archive acquired the Packard Humanities Institute Collection in 2010, it emerged as the house to the largest known collection of theatrical trailers on films, comprising of more than 60,000 commercials, forthcoming attractions, theatrical snipes and film excerpts among others
The Archive has come over as a boon for researchers and scholars who are given the opportunity to access its diverse assemblage, of course considering availability and condition of the materials. Non-profit institutions are also allowed to borrow prints from the Archive for screening purpose.
Some of the notable projects preserved by the Archive includes the American silent film Wings (1927) that won the first Academy Award for Best Picture; Jidaigeki drama film Rashomon (1950); the Stan Brakhage Collection comprising of films, including original elements and prints of American filmmaker Stan Brakhage, counted among the leading figures in 20th-century experimental film; and the Satyajit Ray Collection that includes 18 films of legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, recipient of the Academy Honorary Award.
The Archive in a way chronicles how Hollywood, regarded as the oldest film industry, has developed with time with its dominant style of cinema. It also stands as a testament of how the Academy has come forward in embracing and honoring World Cinema thus celebrating the spirit of cinema inspiring researchers, scholars, makers and viewers of films for generations.