Martin Scorsese's WCF expands in digital

Also hires exec director, inks Criterion Collection deal

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CANNES -- Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Foundation is getting both an executive and a digital boost.

Scorsese announced at a Cannes news conference Friday that the nonprofit had inked deals with distributor B-Side and online movie theater and digital community the Auteurs to make the WCF's films widely available, and also said he brought on former Film Society of Lincoln Center exec Kent Jones as its executive director.

The World Cinema Foundation is devoted to restoring endangered films from around the world, particularly in economically challenged countries.

B-Side will distribute and help make the films available for a host of organizations around the world to screen, while the Auteurs, a virtual screening room and portal that uses social networking and other tools to promote its films, will create a World Cinema Foundation area on its site.

The WCF has also inked a deal with the Criterion Collection to make WCF pics available on DVD.

"Film preservation is always an uphill battle, and no matter how smoothly things go in the restoration process, there's never enough time," Scorsese said of the group's mission.

Scorsese and principals from the other groups said that the roughly 10 films that have been restored would be available to view as a free, ad-supported stream around the world.

Meanwhile, Scorsese said, his group would undertake four new restorations -- of Edward Yang's "A Bright Summer Day," Emilio Gomez Muriel's "Redes," Djibril Diop Mambety's "Touki Bouki" and Ahmed El Maanouni's "Trances/El Hal." Those pics will go through a series of windows, first as a paid download and eventually as a free ad-supported stream.

Endeavor Independent's Liesl Copland and Mark Ankner have been retained by the WCF to advise on business and distribution issues.

While the WCF is also concerned about U.S. films -- Scorsese estimates as much as 90% of American silent film is gone permanently -- the group says it needs to be ambitious in locating and restoring films around the world if it hopes to succeed.

"A lot of American cinema is gone," Jones said. "So you can imagine (what) cinema in the rest of the world (is like)."
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