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has an obligation to his own investors to maximize the potential of the
library. In so doing, he helps television networks and individual stations
by maximizing their audience, and hence revenue.
He also is helping raise
the level of programming by making available neglected, quality films.
Mr. Chairman, we believe that for the production of future new
releases the issue of colorization is one which should be negotiated
between the directors and the producers or owners of the films on which
they are working.
Over time the directors, through the basic contract
negotiated by the Directors Guild and in their individual contracts with
producers, have obtained certain rights.
The colorizing of motion pictures
belongs in that same arena.
If Mr. Allen, or any other director, chooses
to negotiate a contract with the producers or backers of his films that
preclude the colorizing of those films, he should have that right. We
would absolutely refuse to color any motion picture when such colorization
would be a violation of an existing contract.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, it is fair to say that the issue of
colorization is really one of personal taste.
Our critics do not like our
product and think we should not have the right to convert black and white
to color. Colorization itself infringes on no one's rights. But
successful effort to take away the right of the owners to color copies of
old black and white films would, in our opinion, be a clear violation of a
person's right to his own property. Furthermore, we assert that the
American people have a right to choose between a colorized version of a
film or the film in its original black and white state.
I don't believe
any pressure group should or
overnmental body would tell them what they
can and cannot watch.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I want to express my
appreciation for hearing our side of the issue.
Senator LEAHY. Thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF ROGER L. MAYER Mr. MAYER. Mr. Chairman, my name is Roger Mayer. I am presi
Ι dent and chief operating officer of Turner Entertainment Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Turner Broadcasting.
I have been an executive in the motion picture and television industry for approximately 35 years with only two other companies, Columbia Pictures and MGM. I was at MGM for 25 years, most notably as senior vice president of administration and as president of the MGM laboratory. My main administrative duties included the administrative control of production and post-production facilities at MGM and the preservation of the MGM library.
Our great film libraries contain many thousands of old blackand-white movies which, despite their intrinsic entertainment value, do not command an audience today because today's audiences are conditioned to looking at movies in color. They simply cannot be persuaded, cajoled, or bullied into watching them in black and white.
In the controversy over the coloring of these old movies, the issues seem to be: who has the right to decide whether they should be colored? What is achieved by coloring? What is lost?
The owners or licensees of the copyrights bought the rights "fair and square.” They obviously have the legal and contractual right to decide this matter. Everyone that appeared before you today has signed a personal service contract which grants us all the rights and proceeds of their services and the negotiations with their guild and union did the same thing. We feel we also have the moral right to do so.
Despite propaganda to the contrary, these old movies are not the "violated children" of the director.
Senator LEAHY. These are not what?
Mr. MAYER. The "violated children” of the director. I am using the phrase used by Mr. Huston. They were made in the heyday of the old studio moguls and are, for the most part, the “children” of the studio moguls and their staff producers who oversaw every aspect of each production. They worked on the script with the writer and assigned all others on the film, including the directorwho was replaced midway through a production if his work didn't please, if he was behind schedule or over budget.
The "spiritual heirs" of these moguls and producers are today's copyright holders and, having invested multimillions in these pictures, want them admired and enjoyed by as many as possible.
As for "violated"-a child can hardly be considered despoiled when that child remains untouched. The old movies remain preserved in their black-and-white state. The color-enhanced movies are not substitutes for the black and whites. They are merely alternatives.
As to the argument that one should never even tamper with a work of art, it seems to me to go hand in hand with that chilling argument that the public lacks the wisdom and the sophistication to be allowed a choice in this matter, and I think that was the testimony from the directors today.
One of the things they talked about was, would we put a rock score on “Gone With The Wind”? We happen to own “Gone With The Wind" so maybe I can speak to that subject.
No, I don't think we would. Would we have the right to? Yes, I do think so, and I would like to point to one factual situation which I think is comparable.
Bizet probably would not have wanted “Carmen” to be tampered with. Oscar Hammerstein made a black-jazz version called “Carmen Jones,” which was made or done on the stage and as a movie. Both works were marvelous. They both still exist, and I think there is room for both. I doubt whether there would be room for a jazzed-up "Gone With The Wind," but I certainly think we should have the right to experiment and do so as long as you don't destroy the original.
You won't read Chaucer in Middle English. Too bad. But you won't have the chance to read him in a more palatable form because we have burned all of the modern English versions. You won't watch a black-and-white movie, but would really enjoy it in color? Sorry, but color enhancement is verboten. Carried to its ultimate conclusion, the elitist argument that you can't tamper would lead to such absurdities as no line of Shakespeare could ever be cut in a Shakespearean production.
Clearly, most directors have made films based on literary material and tampered with that material to develop a particular visionsometimes to the distress of the original author. Clearly, too, from time immemorial and long before the advent of movies, creators and entrepreneurs alike have had the right, both moral and legal, to change the work of others and come up with new concepts. The public, in turn, either has accepted the new vision or rejected it.
The important factor is that the original version has remained intact and available to those who prefer it. When the modified version of “Pygmalion” is “My Fair Lady” or the new version of a theme is Brahms' "Variations on a Theme by Hadyn," then the public embraces both versions and both versions flourish.
Despite what has been said, we do not think this is a contest between art and commerce. All the people that worked on these movies were paid and usually paid handsomely. Moreover, they did not return their salaries with an apology if the movies flopped. It is hardly fair for anyone who ever earned big and risk-free money working on a movie to cry "greed,” because the copyright holder also wants to earn money or recoup an investment. The owners also want to share with as many as possible these enjoyable, occasionally edifying, sometimes even triumphally artistic entertainments. For the most part, these newly colored movies are the sort of entertainment we all devoutly wish were made today, and particularly wish were available to our children. Well, here they are.
Previously, for the most part, they gathered dust. I think that is extremely important. Despite every effort by the people that owned these pictures to get them properly distributed and be seen by millions of people, they cannot do so. Now they are seen and are being appreciated by a huge audience.
Senator LEAHY. But if I could just interrupt for a moment, that is just a tad off the mark, isn't it? Didn't you first colorize films that were standing very strong on their own as black-and-white classics, films like "Casablanca," before you went to the others? These were not films that had to be rescued from some obscurity because of their black-and-white format.
Mr. MAYER. “Casablanca” has not yet been colored, but with the exception of “The Maltese Falcon,” to which your comments are accurate Senator LEAHY. Let's take that. Did not
"The Maltese Falcon"
Mr. MAYER. Yes. But let me give you the difference, if I may.
“The Maltese Falcon” was a reasonably successful picture in black and white on television and in other types of syndication. Since it has been colored, it seems to have been seen by at least five times as many people in the last 6 months in color as had seen it in black and white in the prior 10 years. So it is that kind of thing that I am talking about.
Senator LEAHY. You are saying that by coloring it, even though it was already popular, it became far more popular?
Mr. MAYER. That is correct. And the other pictures—like “42nd Street" and "Captain Blood" and "The Sea Hawk”-had relatively no distribution. People did not know they were entertaining. They were unwilling to give them the chance, for whatever psychological reasons or whatever reasons you might figure. But when we put them in color and got the stations to play them in prime time, 8 o'clock at night, all of a sudden, people recognized their entertainment value.
Should they have recognized it in black and white? Yes, but they are simply not attuned to it.
Senator LEAHY. Is your analogy of “Carmen Jones” really a good one? This was not portrayed as the movie “Carmen” any more than "West Side Story” was portrayed as being Romeo and Juliet.
Rachmaninoff wrote “Variations on a Theme by Paganini. Rachmaninoff's variation of Paganini is not Paganini. Both are very lovely. They happen to be two of my favorites. But, again, it is understood that Rachmaninoff's work is not the original Paganini theme.
Is not though the argument of the directors one that deserves consideration that colorized films are fobbed on in many ways as being originals and that the original works were intended to be black and white? Films are not only shot in black and white because of studio necessity. Films may be shot in black and white because, indeed, someone wanted black and white? What do you say about those instances where, indeed, the films were chosen to be shown in black and white?
Mr. MAYER. I think that is true of a lot of these films. What we say to that is that we are making every effort to tell the public and not mislead them by saying this is the newly colorized version. This is in the advertising. This is on before the picture in most cases, and in all cases the end of the picture, so we are saying this is the newly color converted version, the newly colorized version, and so they are not misled by this.
Senator LEAHY. All right.
Mr. MAYER. When the anticolorists deny the right to color blackand-white pictures, they are calling for censorship. The legal, moral, and civil rights exist to color old movies. However, this is not really so much a matter of rights as it is a matter of taste, and we do not believe that anyone has the right to impose his or her taste on the public.
There are many movies directed today, made today, which most of us would consider trash. But we would not, I hope, ban them.
We conclude that not only has nothing been lost in converting old movies to color, since the movies survive in black and white, but we have created a large new audience where, in most cases, none existed. As far as we can tell, 5 to 10 times as many people saw each of the color-converted pictures in the last 6 months as had seen them in the prior 20 years on TV in black and white.
We feel this is a service to the movies themselves and to the public. Obviously, general interest in old movies is revived by the newly colored versions, and the new versions may even whet public appetite for the original versions. So far, that seems to be true.
It hardly seems a crime to provide entertainment and enjoyment to the millions who watch movies in color who would not have watched them in black and white. I think we have made a distinct contribution not only to the pleasure of the public but toward preserving and honoring these movies in all media.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.