The prints – high-quality copies of decades-old films – were not masters, which are in a Philadelphia vault, the studio said. But the loss of copies in Universal's scorched vault building, which the studio had not quantified, could affect upcoming screenings of classic films at museums, festivals and repertory theaters.
“It's a real shame. The timing couldn't be worse,” said Bernardo Rondeau, coordinator of film programs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As part of July's “The Discreet Charm of Charles Boyer” program, LACMA was set to show French-born actor Boyer's 1941 “Hold Back the Dawn.”
The print of that movie, originally released by Paramount but part of Universal's archival collection, was being transported from New York's Lincoln Center to the Los Angeles museum and might have been in the Universal vault when the predawn blaze started Sunday.
Making new film prints can cost $5,000 or more each and take months.
The fire also claimed about 5percent of copies of Universal Music Group recordings, primarily big band and jazz on the Decca label, and video copies of Universal movies and TV shows. Universal Music Group is no longer part of the NBC entertainment conglomerate but rents storage from the studio.
In an e-mail to several dozen film exhibitors Monday, Universal said the “fire destroyed nearly 100 % of the archive prints kept here on the lot. Due to this we will be unable to honor any film bookings of prints that were set to ship from here.” “