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Restoring “The Godfather” to Celebrate the Film’s 50th Anniversary

Restored 4K version of crime epic debuts March 22nd
Photo of The Godfather

This month Francis Ford Coppola’s landmark film, “The Godfather”, turns 50 and to celebrate the occasion Paramount Studios and American Zoetrope will release a newly restored 4K version of the crime epic.

“The whole thing is trying to get it to look like it did at the original screening of ‘The Godfather,’ when it was only two weeks old, not 20 years old or 50 years old,” Coppola told The New York Times.

A restoration of the film was released 15 years ago, but there have been vast improvements in digital technology since that 2008 restoration. The newest version uses higher-quality film sources and the team spent upwards of 4000 hours removing stains and mending tears in the film.

When the film was first released in 1972 the studio system wasn’t really thinking about long-term preservation of the film. Paramount Studios didn’t expect The Godfather to be the massive hit it was and suddenly found themselves rushing to make as many copies as possible.

“Instead of saying, let’s preserve the original negative because it’s going to be a valuable asset, they basically wore it out,” Coppola said. “The prints started to be so unlike what the movie really should look like.”

To create an accurate restoration the team relied on a restoration that had been approved by the film’s cinematographer Gordon Willis and some bits of film that Paramount found stored in other film cans. According to James Mockoski, who oversaw the most recent restoration of the film, without the Willis restoration it would be extremely difficult to know what the film looked like when it was originally released in theaters—something that’s complicated because so many of the interior scenes were shot to be intentionally dark.

“With the new technology it’s trying to put more light in it,” Mockoski explained to The Times. “You’ve got this beautiful opening and they want to see all the details and the wood paneling. Well, that’s not the point. That’s not Godfather.”

The new restoration will be released on home video on March 22nd. Watch a trailer for the restored film below.

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