This is not just buying five more years
March 15, 2016 12:29 PM   Subscribe

"Reels of classic films tend to melt into goo; philanthropist David W. Packard won't let that happen" "UCLA was looking for a modest little place to move to, and I got involved and turned it into something monumental," Packard, 75, said during an extended tour of the facility. "It's a labor of love and a labor of craziness. I could have just built an adequate facility, but it didn't cost that much more for it to be something wonderful."
posted by octothorpe (26 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
"It broke up my friendship with Steve Jobs," he said, "when I told him movies were not meant to be seen on 21/2 -inch screens."

I can't understand this quote. Screens sized between 21 and 22 inches? 21.5-inch screens? Two half-inch screens?

eta: I think I get it now, it's "2.5-inch screens," which must have been the pinnacle of Apple tech at the time
posted by seiryuu at 12:37 PM on March 15, 2016


"UCLA was looking for a modest little place to move to, and I got involved and turned it into something monumental.... It's a labor of love and a labor of craziness. I could have just built an adequate facility, but it didn't cost that much more for it to be something wonderful.... I don't want to be a person who goes around boasting about doing things. What's the point of that?"
I want to like this guy, but he's making it difficult.
posted by Etrigan at 12:42 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I want to like this guy, but he's making it difficult.

Maybe, but he also put a lot of his inherited cash into the Library of Congress' film labs, a feature of which is a gorgeous art deco theater that consistently has fascinating programming. As bombastic rich guys go, he seems pretty far down the list of ones to hate.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:51 PM on March 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


"It broke up my friendship with Steve Jobs," he said, "when I told him movies were not meant to be seen on 2 1/2-inch screens."
David Lynch on watching movies on an iPhone (NSFW)

That said, I think this kind of sentimentality about "the big screen" is ridiculous. Tell me again what a terrible thing it is that this and future generations have on-demand access to a world of movies that they can view wherever they are, on whatever devices they happen to have available, in far greater quality/resolution than the televisions of my childhood could reproduce.

As I sat with my children through (literally) 30 minutes of advertising before Zootopia, I was dreaming of the day theaters will be dead enough so that even the biggest movies are available on-demand the day they're released.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 1:09 PM on March 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have no problem liking this guy. He's ridiculously wealthy, he knows it, and he leverages it for important work:

"It may seem a little willful just to follow my instincts," Packard said in as close as he wants to get to a summation, "but I'm in a position where I can. I'm a lucky guy who's had the resources to support things I care about. I'm doing this because I love these movies and I want them to survive."

posted by Think_Long at 1:12 PM on March 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


> I want to like this guy, but he's making it difficult.

Really? A single statement that could be taken as ironically self-canceling, and boom, he's an asshole? I hate that attitude.

I agree with Think_Long: I have no problem with rich people if this is how they spend their money. This guy is a hero of twentieth-century culture.
posted by languagehat at 1:47 PM on March 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


For those not aware, this is the Packard from "Hewlett Packard".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:49 PM on March 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


More accurately, this is the son of the Packard from Hewlett-Packard.
posted by Lexica at 2:05 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have no problem with rich people if this is how they spend their money.

Yeah, among other things he could instead be trying to shut down a village library.
posted by LeLiLo at 2:13 PM on March 15, 2016


That said, I think this kind of sentimentality about "the big screen" is ridiculous. Tell me again what a terrible thing it is that this and future generations have on-demand access to a world of movies that they can view wherever they are, on whatever devices they happen to have available, in far greater quality/resolution than the televisions of my childhood could reproduce.
It's a visual medium, and most film is shot to be seen on large screens at lower resolution. It isn't sentimental to want to preserve media and allow them to be experienced in the format they were designed for, unless you also consider book and art antiquarians sentimental.
And your complaint about the misery of the modern cinema experience is undoubtedly one Packard shares.
posted by gingerest at 2:48 PM on March 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm all about streaming media, and I watch movies at home all the time. But seeing movies the way they're meant to be seen, in a dark, quiet theater on a 30 foot screen with a professional sound system, is a completely different experience, and I never want that option to go away. I can't imagine watching a movie worth seeing on a screen I could hold in my hand.

The people who are out there preserving original media, rescuing and restoring films that might otherwise be lost are heroes. And sometimes magicians.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:59 PM on March 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


I like his focus on aesthetics in what is definitely a non-aesthetic age. The Stoa looks really beautiful.

But it sounds like his greatest contribution to film is all those expensive restorations. Digitizing and restoring the films from the best available sources (and making a new print along the way) is ultimately what will save them.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:09 PM on March 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


I want to like this guy, but he's making it difficult.

Really? A single statement that could be taken as ironically self-canceling, and boom, he's an asshole? I hate that attitude.


Really? There's no room between "I want to like this guy, but he's making it difficult" and "he's an asshole"? I hate that attitude.
posted by Etrigan at 5:20 PM on March 15, 2016


Tell me again what a terrible thing it is that this and future generations have on-demand access to a world of movies that they can view wherever they are

It's like online dating: it does the thing, but it's not the same.
posted by rhizome at 5:59 PM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


He may be a little egotistical but he's a good guy: he restored and funds a classic movie house in Palo Alto and currently funds much of the excavations at Herculaneum, a suburb of Pompeii. If scions are going to inherit massive wealth, better him than the Kochs.
posted by crazy with stars at 6:32 PM on March 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


"Before efforts like Packard's, so many films were routinely lost or destroyed that it's estimated that approximately half the films made before 1951, not to mention that more than eight of 10 features made between 1912 and 1930, no longer exist, according to film historians."

Soooooo.....nine?
posted by AAALASTAIR at 9:39 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


That should be 8 out of 10, or 80%. This article could use some proof reading and editing.
posted by MythMaker at 9:44 PM on March 15, 2016


This guy is a hero of twentieth-century culture.

Inarguable.

I think with the Homerian thing happening he'd appreciate the epithet, too.
posted by Wolof at 11:39 PM on March 15, 2016


I want to like this guy, but he's making it difficult.

I've puzzled over this for the last 24 and I honestly don't understand your discontent. Would you have the same attitude if he had a smaller pile of money? If so, why? If so, what kind of personal fortune do you set as a maximum, and how do you arrive at that figure? I'm assuming you're okay with the work itself, which clearly no one else was doing- is it the pleasing building that he opted for (which in an age of ugly buildings should be more welcome than not, at least ot my mind).

I would be grateful if you could elaborate.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:07 AM on March 16, 2016


I would be grateful if you could elaborate.

Look at the quotes I extracted. This guy crows about how the facility is "monumental" and "something wonderful", pooh-poohing the idea of it being "modest" or "adequate", and then he says "I don't want to be a person who goes around boasting about doing things. What's the point of that?"

I applaud what he's doing, but Packard has managed to go beyond humblebragging to metahumblemetabragging.
posted by Etrigan at 6:44 AM on March 16, 2016


[Let's please drop the extended derail about whether you/someone personally "likes" the man, and maybe just carry on and discuss the project. ]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:55 AM on March 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like the building and I like the work. Never met the man, so I don't like venturing an opinion on him one way or the other. It's got to be a bit awkward, esp. if you're a private person, to talk about this kind of thing without looking a bit, well, awkward.

Not that I'll ever be in a position to find out.

Did I mention that I like the building and the work?

(I didn't realize that Steve Jobs had any friends.)
posted by IndigoJones at 7:19 AM on March 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Between this Greek stoa and the Getty Villa Southern California is really becoming the land of replica Greco-Roman structures.

What's next? Will they one-up Nashville by building a Parthenon twice as big as the original? A Roman times theme park, with gladiator fights and chariot races?

Sadly the House of Davids, with its 19 replica Michelangelo's David statues in the front yard, was boringly redecorated into a generic suburban home. We expect more LA!
posted by crazy with stars at 10:59 AM on March 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love this project and fully support both it and making it aesthetically pleasing. Would it be just as valid in a boring, brutalist monument somewhere? Sure, but this gives it an extra dimension. This is exactly the kind of thing I'd do if I had piles of money.

The Standford theatre is amazing and I heartily recommend it - some of my favorite movie experiences happened there. I think my first viewings of The Big Sleep and Maltese Falcon were there. It's a delightful theatre.
posted by caphector at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have friends who work in film archiving and preservation, and the facilities in this article sound just awesome. Nitrate prints are so, so vulnerable, and even celluloid can fade away over time. A lot of studio prints are in a really precarious position right now, as studio politics seem to be deemphasizing preservation.

I'd really like to know what's in these particular archives. The article talks about Packard's love of classic Hollywood, but there's also a lot of film that has been very underserved by preservationists - including early African American cinema, B-movies, local productions, pornography, home movies, and other kinds of films that don't usually get the same kind of care. These are all cultural artifacts, and they've got enormous social and historical value.
posted by teponaztli at 5:00 AM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


It says that about 90% of the films there belong to the UCLA collection, so I guess it's whatever they have. Don't know any specifics, but Wikipedia says that their collection is second only to the Library of Congress. The article does mention a plan to digitize 27 million feet of Hearst newsreel footage, so it sounds like they have quite a bit of film that's not classic motion pictures.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:35 PM on March 17, 2016


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