U.K. film archives get $50 mil 'safeguard'

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LONDON -- The U.K. Film Council has secured £25 million ($50.9 million) over two years to "safeguard the future of the U.K.'s national and regional film archives."

The cash injection was announced by Culture Secretary James Purnell as part of a funding package granted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The cash pool is in addition to £3 million ($6.1 million) pledged by the U.K. Film Council for the U.K. Digital Film Archive Fund.

The cash aims to fuel a screen heritage strategy "to preserve the visual memory of the U.K. and ensure access for all," a DCMS statement said.

The UKFC plans to pump it into a plan to preserve and restore the British Film Institute national collection and the regional collections.

The BFI National Archive contains more than 60,000 fiction films, 120,000 nonfiction titles and about 675,000 television programs, which is well over 500,000 hours of material.

An estimated 30% or 123,000 cans of the acetate collection is deteriorating, according to the BFI.

Purnell described the BFI archive as "a national treasure" and said it was a visual history of Britain.

"From the earliest silent newsreels to CinemaScope to 3-D, the BFI archive is one of the greatest collections of film and TV in the world. It's vital that we safeguard its future," Purnell said. "This additional £25 million will secure the future of the national and regional archives. It's absolutely right that they should be safe and accessible for future generations."

UKFC CEO John Woodward said: "This is a fantastic boost for our nation's screen heritage which brings to life the U.K.'s cultural, social, political and economic history."

The £25 million archive allowance is in addition to the UKFC's annual fund, which is still being decided on by the government.
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