LONDON — The Associated Press has purchased the film archive of British Movietone, bolstering the news cooperative’s collection with historic video from World War II, the Beatles’ conquest of America and the romance between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.
The newsreels, acquired from Newsreel Archive, were originally shown in movie theaters twice a week and were the first to have sound and color. The archive includes the first recorded speeches of personalities such as Mohandas K. Gandhi and George Bernard Shaw, as well as the only footage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding filmed in high definition on 35mm film.
“The British Movietone archive is a gem of visual heritage and an incredible resource for content creators,” Gary Pruitt, AP’s president and CEO, said Tuesday. “For AP to become its new custodian is a true privilege, and it perfectly complements AP’s own extensive archive collection.”
Most of the archive has been digitized and is available for licensing, but about 15 percent of the library has never been seen by the public. This footage includes material that failed to make it into news bulletins or was barred by censors during World War II. The AP hopes to digitize and release the material over time.
The collection also includes features on social issues, entertainment, lifestyle and sports that became increasingly important during the 1950s and 1960s when television news began to replace newsreels in cinemas. The reports offer a glimpse of decades when change rocked society at an unprecedented pace, including advances in medicine and computers.
“By acquiring British Movietone, we are cementing our position as the foremost supplier of news and historical video,” said Alwyn Lindsey, AP’s vice president of sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The AP had partnered with Newsreel Archive to make the British Movietone collection available internationally for the past five years — including a YouTube channel featuring a selection of Movietone films. AP clients will be able to access the material via the AP Archive. Once the sale is completed, Newsreel Archive PTY will act as AP’s exclusive archive distribution partner in Australia and New Zealand.
“Through our many years of working with AP, we appreciate how the British Movietone archive collection will benefit from being further integrated within the vast AP network and made even more widely available than it is today,” said Matthew Miranda, Newsreel Archive’s CEO.