AP acquires Movietone archive

The global news network has acquired the historic British Movietone film archive collection from Newsreel Archive, which consists of a wealth of footage spanning close to a century of international events.
September 27, 2016

The Associated Press is now the proud owner of one of the world’s most significant and important news film collections. The global news network has acquired the historic British Movietone film archive collection from Newsreel Archive, which features a wealth of footage spanning close to a century of international events.

The Movietone archive is the first newsreel to have film with sound and, later, color. It was shown in British cinemas twice a week, and is renowned for containing the first recorded speech of leading personalities like Gandhi and George Bernard Shaw.

The archive’s significant historic highlights also include:

  • The 1937 Hidenburg disaster (pictured);
  • The rise of Fascism and the outbreak of World War II;
  • Over 6,000 stories covering World War II between 1939 and 1945;
  • The Beatles’ conquest of America, Beatlemania and the “British Invasion” of the 1960s, featuring the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and the Who;
  • The Korean and Vietnam wars;
  • Extensive royal coverage, including the Edward and Mrs. Simpson story, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and the only footage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding filmed in high definition on 35 mm film;
  • Visits to the UK by leading historical and iconic figures, including John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali;
  • Technological change, including advances in medicine and the origins of information technology and telecommunications;
  • Popular culture, including fashion, music, film and the arts;

“The British Movietone archive is a gem of visual heritage and an incredible resource for content creators,” said Gary Pruitt, AP’s president and CEO, in a statement.

As TV news began to increasingly replace cinema newsreels in the ’50s and ’60s, British Movietone’s hard news coverage more often came with features on social issues, entertainment, lifestyle, sports and lighthearted stories, the kind of content that struggled to find a place on mainstream television but that resonated with cinema-goers. The result is a series of films within the archive collection that provide a social commentary on decades of history where society’s values changed at an unprecedented pace.

Some of the archive has never been seen before, something AP plans on changing now that it’s under its purview. While much of its has been digitized and made available for licensing, approximately 15 per cent of has never been seen and remains in its original 35 mm format, either cut from bulletins or restricted by censors during World War II. AP plans on making it available, cataloging, digitizing and releasing it over time.

According to Alwyn Lindsey, AP’s VP of sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, acquiring British Movietone has allowed AP to cement its position as the forest supplier of news and historical video.

AP has been working with Newsreel Archive over the last five years to make British Movietone content available internationally, including on YouTube. AP clients will be continue to be able to access the digitized Movietone films, which accounts for over 2,200 hours of footage, through the AP archive platform. Newsreel Archive will now act as AP’s exclusive archive distributor in Australia and New Zealand, offering both AP and Movietone footage to customers.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.