Most lost films are from the silent film and early talkie era, from about 1894 to 1930. Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation estimates that more than 90% of American films made before 1929 are lost. Many other early motion pictures are lost because the nitrate film used for nearly all 35 mm negatives and prints made before 1952 is highly flammable.
About Lost film in brief
A lost film is a feature or short film that is no longer known to exist in any studio archives, private collections, or public archives. A film that has not been recovered in its entirety is called a partially lost film. Most lost films are from the silent film and early talkie era, from about 1894 to 1930. Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation estimates that more than 90% of American films made before 1929 are lost. The Library of Congress estimates that 75% of all silent films are lost forever. Many other early motion pictures are lost because the nitrate film used for nearly all 35 mm negatives and prints made before 1952 is highly flammable. Nitrate film is chemically unstable and over time can decay into a sticky mass or a powder akin to gunpowder. Much depends on the environment of low humidity, low temperature, low humidity and adequate ventilation can preserve nitrateFilm for centuries, but in practice, the storage conditions were usually far from ideal on a film on which it is almost always said to have been ‘preserved’ The loss of quality Eastman Kodak stock in spring 1909 was a result of a nonflammable base stock used to make 35mm film. However, Kodak introduced a non-flammables base stock in 1909, and the film has since been copied onto plasticizers or more recently digitized onto film. This means that almost all lost film has simply been simply copied onto film, and it has never been simply digitized that it has been preserved that it was simply copied on a plasticizer or more Recently digitized on film, it has become possible to preserve a lost film in a number of ways.
For example, the 1922 film Sherlock Holmes was eventually discovered, but some of the footage is still missing. The phrase ‘lost film’ can also be used in a literal sense for instances where footage of deleted scenes, unedited, and alternative versions of feature films are known to have was created, but can no longer be accounted for. Most film studios routinely had a still photographer with a large-format camera working on the set during production, taking pictures for potential publicity use. Some used prints were sold to scrap dealers and ultimately cut up into short segments for use with small, hand-cranked 35 mm movie projectors, which were sold as a toy for showing brief excerpts from Hollywood movies at home. In some cases, such as London After Midnight, the surviving coverage is so extensive that an entire lost film can be reconstructed scene by scene from still photographs. Some of the early films did not survive because of wholesale junking by the studios. There was no thought of ever saving these films. They simply needed vault space and the materials were expensive to house. The studios could earn money by recycling the film for their silver content. Meanwhile, the studios could sell them for silver content, which they could profit from by recycling. Some films were thrown out when studios simply refused to reclaim their films, still being held by Technicolor in its vaults.