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As many as 70 libraries titles are in various stages of planning for or remastering in 4K resolution at Sony Pictures, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Also, more than 100 already have been completed, including William Wyler’s 1968 musical Funny Girl, whose new 4K restoration makes its world premiere Thursday at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood.
Some of the pristine 4K versions will be shown in theaters. Others could be screened at home — if you have an Ultra HDTV. A soon-to-be-released Sony 4K Media Player, listing for $699, will come bundled with 4K versions of feature films like David Lean‘s The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and newer titles like Marc Webb‘s The Amazing Spider-Man. In the fall, users will be given access to a fee-based video-distribution service.
In related news, this week Sony Pictures Television announced getTV, a new U.S. digital broadcast television network that will debut in the fall and air classic movies from the Sony Pictures library, including a few that already were remastered in 4K, such as Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and The Bridge on the River Kwai. (This was not announced as a 4K channel.)
The newly-restored version of Funny Girl will be available April 30 in HD on Blu-ray.
Grover Crisp, executive vp asset management, film restoration and digital mastering at Sony Pictures, says that a 4K restoration of a feature film can take three to nine months on average. But there are exceptions, as Lawrence of Arabia — involving 330,000 frames of film — was a three-year effort.
“We always try working with the director when possible,” Crisp says, adding that the restoration work also often involves the cinematographer.
“Otherwise we use references,” he says, noting that for Lawrence, the team had prints that were approved by Lean when he was alive. Additionally, the film’s Oscar-winning editor, Anne Coates, came in to review the work.
Sony Pictures Technologies president Chris Cookson emphasizes that maintaining the original creative intent is something that restoration professionals “take very seriously.”
He cites as an example the restoration of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz at Warner Bros. (Cookson’s previous employer). “You could see things like wires and trap doors, and there was a great deal of debate because you can take all of that out [with digital tools],” he says. “But unless the director is alive and agrees, we typically don’t do that.”
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