- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

“It’s an ephemeral material, celluloid,” observed director Ridley Scott recently when questioned about the Halloween week revival of “Alien.”

The emergence of digital reproduction systems may prolong the shelf life of countless movies while enhancing the value of occasional theatrical revivals as a prelude to fresh home video editions in the now dominant DVD format.

“This is the first time we’ve had a system that renders film like it ought to be,” Mr. Scott explained. “DVD is still relatively new. In the interim there was a serious dropoff in quality between the first theatrical prints and all the later copies. You’re getting a fraction of the movie if you’re watching a VHS copy on a small TV monitor. Looking back, Fox realized that certain kinds of movies have been seen properly only once, by the audience that was around when they were in theaters for the first time. A year later, and now it’s more like six months or six weeks later, the opportunity is gone. Most of the ‘Alien’ prints that remained in circulation were terrible. The typical video copy was mediocre to terrible, a diminished and pale reflection of what people had seen in theaters.”

According to the director, “Alien” was overdue for maintenance and restoration. “The negative was starting to go,” Mr. Scott said. “It was getting grainy. Thank God the images can now be tracked and reproduced digitally. But no one knows how long digital systems will preserve the image quality. I’ve had to go in like a surgeon and do some nip-and-tuck where the grain was becoming noticeable. The sound was still pretty good. We always had a great sound mix, and the music was perfect.”

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