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On Jan. 10, Universal Pictures celebrated its 100th anniversary (which is officially on April 30) by unveiling a new logo and announcing a restoration of 13 of its iconic films: All Quiet on the Western Front, The Birds, Abbott & Costello’s Buck Privates, Dracula (1931), the Spanish-language Dracula filmed on the same set at night, Frankenstein, Jaws, Schindler’s List, Out of Africa, Pillow Talk, Bride of Frankenstein, The Sting and To Kill a Mockingbird (available Jan. 31 in a 50th-anniversary Blu-ray edition).
The animated version of the new logo debuts with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax at its February premiere (before its March 2 theatrical release). “It didn’t change the logo in a way that audiences wouldn’t completely understand, but it brought us up to date,” Universal Studios president and COO Ron Meyer tells THR.
The restorations, which will be released throughout the studio’s yearlong centennial celebration, took three to six months each and cost $250,000 to $600,000 per title, Universal senior vp technical operations Michael Daruty told The Hollywood Reporter and others at a sneak preview of the extraordinarily impressive results on the studio lot on Dec. 1. “This restoration effort was not about marketability and whether we’re gonna sell enough DVDs,” said Daruty. “That is what we do on a daily basis, but this was a commitment by the company to say, ‘We’re gonna devote funding and most probably continue that effort year over year to try to preserve and restore the legacy of the company. We’re here to spend the money on these 13 titles and some others, whether we’re gonna get our money back in that first year or not.’ It’s really refreshing.”
“It is a profit driver, so supporting the DVD/Blu-ray business is of great importance,” said Meyer. “There will be a number of films in collectible book-style packaging with memorabilia. It’s an area for us to frankly show off and give the audience something they’ve never seen before.” Daruty’s team proved Meyer right by showing horrifying damage magically repaired in the coming releases. In Universal’s classic monster cinema (which you can expect to see promoted next Halloween), loud hisses, pops and crackles vanish, making scary footsteps audible. To Kill a Mockingbird loses the appalling graininess in a courtroom closeup. In Out of Africa, Meryl Streep loses a weird wobble in her walk possibly caused by projectors that enlarged the sprocket holes. Pillow Talk erupts with dazzling color and detail. Jaws practically bites your nose off.
Meyer promises parades in Universal’s Orlando theme park, tours of the company’s remarkable archives and promotions at major film festivals, maybe with talent in attendance. “A hundred years is a real milestone,” said Meyer. “And, I mean, what could be more important than movies? Seriously!”
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