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TIFF Bell Lightbox theatre on King Street in Toronto.

Sarah Dea/The Globe and Mail

It is no secret that access to films is dwindling. Video stores are disappearing from even the most bustling urban centres. The DVD market is hardly thriving. Library resources vary wildly from municipality to municipality. And though streaming services such as Netflix offer choice, it might be generously viewed as the illusion of choice. After all, reports from earlier this year found that the company's U.S. catalogue of feature films shrunk from 6,494 movies in 2014 to 4,335 this spring – a drop of 33 per cent. And the company has made no secret of its plans to offer more original programming, versus acting as a digital archive.

In this fragile environment, institutions such as the Toronto International Film Festival seem all the more vital. Earlier this spring, TIFF hosted its Restored! series, which showcased rarely seen master prints. And on Tuesday, the organization revealed one of its more ambitious initiatives when it comes to the world of film preservation: the acquisition of 1,460 film prints in 16mm and 35mm formats.

The prints come courtesy of four major sources: NBC Universal, Mongrel Media, eOne/Les Films Seville and Canadian director and cinematographer Peter Mettler (Gambling, Gods and LSD; The End of Time). Highlights of the collections include 11 Alfred Hitchcock films, Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger, Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy and Tod Browning's classic horror, Dracula.

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"TIFF was our first choice to help us preserve our collection of films, a library of prints ranging from the year 1931 to 2006," Jason Fulsom, senior vice-president and general manager of Universal Films Canada, said in a statement. "With the shift of contemporary filmmaking to the digital format, finding a way to preserve movies filmed in 35mm has become a significant challenge. … We are thankful that TIFF is willing to take on the challenge of preserving these important pieces of cinema history."

Hussain Amarshi, president and founder of Mongrel Media, added: "Mongrel Media is one of the many unintended flowers to emerge from the incredible blooming of TIFF over the last many years – so it is very much a coming home for us."

TIFF is set to launch a fundraising campaign, called Save This Moment, aimed at covering the costs of storage, revision, and maintenance of the donated prints.

"This wonderful donation will help us continue protecting and projecting film so current and future generations can enjoy the unique and hypnotic beauty of a film projected on film on the big screen," said Piers Handling, TIFF's director and CEO.

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