By Mack Chico
Martin Scorsese, as ardent an advocate as there is for serving up film the old-fashioned way, has decided to embrace digital distribution for movies restored by his World Cinema Foundation.
The films that the organization restores every year — often obscure titles like “Dry Summer,” a Turkish picture from 1936 — will now be available online through theauteurs.com, a Web site that calls itself a “virtual cinematheque.”
Many will be free. And a partnership with B-Side Entertainment will soon bring the foundation’s films to Netflix and iTunes.
The restored movies will also be broadly distributed for the first time to museums, colleges, festivals and film clubs.
Until now, the foundation’s work was screened at the annual Cannes Film Festival in France, and that’s about it. “To be appreciated, they have to be seen,” Mr. Scorsese said on Friday afternoon at a news conference in Cannes. “Now, they should be seen as they were intended to be seen, but audience awareness can build in surprising ways.”
Kent Jones, who was formerly the associate director of programming at the New York Film Society, will join the foundation as executive director with a mandate to promote the distribution of the foundation’s titles to new platforms, Mr. Scorsese added.
Mr. Scorsese, who serves as the foundation’s chairman, established it in 2007 with a clutch of other celebrated directors (including Stephen Frears and Guillermo del Toro) to restore and preserve neglected films from around the world. Master copies of many obscure films from decades past have deteriorated so much that they are no longer usable or have disappeared. Only about 10 percent of the silent movies made in the United States, for instance, still exist.
“The more audiences see these films, the more they want to see other films like them,” Mr. Scorsese said. “Then what happens is the audience changes, which means the movies that are being made change.”
This year at Cannes, the foundation is reintroducing films like “Al-Momia,” an Egyptian picture from 1969 from the director Shadi Abdel Salam, and “The Wave,” a Mexican title directed by Emilio Gómez Muriel and Fred Zinnemann in 1936.
On Friday, as part of his announcement, Mr. Scorsese included a premiere of a restoration of “The Red Shoes,” the 1948 British film directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.