2001 Sony Pictures Restoration of FUNNY GIRL Rerelease poster

Restoration Credits

Introduction

Shortly after Funny Girl's 1968 theatrical release, Columbia Pictures cut the film shorter so it would play without an intermission. No major scenes were cut, just the overture, the intermission and the exit music. Also, most theater-goers in 1968 did not get to hear Funny Girl with its six-track stereo sound — only a handful of theaters in the U.S. presented it that way. All the 35mm stereo prints were configured with 4-track audio; most of the 35mm prints that 1968 audiences saw had mono tracks. [Note: A six-track stereo soundtrack is left, left-center, center, right-center, right and surround.)

Grover Crisp, Vice President of Asset Management and Film Restoration at Sony Pictures, said the Funny Girl restoration was designed to “replicate the actual road show experience that Wyler envisioned when the film was released in 1968.” (Crisp participated in several interviews about the restoration, so he is quoted most often on this page).

The newly restored print of Funny Girl premiered December 2001 at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre and returned to theaters in very limited release beginning August 31, 2001. Three cities, LA (Laemmle Royal), San Francisco (Castro), and NY (Clearview's Ziegfeld - view photo), screened Funny Girl in the original roadshow presentation with overture, intermission, and exit music. September 2001 through the fall, there were engagements in Chicago, Seattle, Washington, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, and other major cities.

Sony worked on the restoration of Funny Girl over a three year period. The spruced up Funny Girl film was distributed domestically by Sony Repertory on August 31, 2001 and grossed $223,306.

Watch the Funny Girl reissue trailer below:

[Note: I saw the Funny Girl print here in Washington, D.C. at our wonderful Uptown Theater. I recall that it was shortly after the 9/11 attacks and the theater was probably more empty than it would have been, otherwise. I managed to see it three times on the big screen, and it was simply amazing. Biggest Aha! moment: Hearing Streisand's voice magnified in a movie theater is fantastic and much different than what I've experienced at home on my little stereo system. Chills!]

Restoration Initiation

Why restore Funny Girl?

Grover Crisp explained, “This is one of the key musicals in the Columbia library, one of only three films William Wyler directed for the company, the film that put Streisand on the map as a major screen star, so it was not difficult to find a reason to work on this particular film.”

The specifics of how the project started actually began with Streisand requesting a print of the film from the studio.

But Streisand returned her print, complaining that it was out of synch in several places. Crisp elaborated that “it was out of synch by a lot, by a wide margin, which was pretty shocking. But there were also a few other problems that we were noticing with that print. So we decided to take a step back and take a look at what we had on the film. And when we pulled out the original negative to have it evaluated, we discovered that it was really in quite poor shape. And we decided at that time to do a really complete restoration of the film, and fix it up as best we could.”

State of “Funny Girl” Before Restoration

restored frames of Funny Girl

Sony Pictures discovered Funny Girl's negative was in poor shape and that two reels were missing.

The negative was worn because, “during its first decade of life, it was used as a printing negative. As a result, it became badly damaged and poorly made sections were cut into it,” Crisp explained.

Experts took several months doing the repair work on the original negative. “Every single splice was coming apart and a lot of the perforations were damaged,” said Grover Crisp.

The film's color, however, was not bad—very little fading, considering the film was over 30 years old.

Restoration

Cineric Inc., located in New York, did the majority of the work on the Funny Girl restoration, using computer technology and photochemical processes to preserve and restore the musical film.

“[Cineric] performed an internegative replacement,” Grover Crisp explained, “reinforcing splices, repairing negative elements, torn perforations, replacing approximately 20% of the original negative. The restoration wasn't terribly complicated in that sense, mainly because we were lucky that Sony provided excellent replacement elements for sections we needed to fix. The key to a good photo-chemical restoration is finding quality replacement elements in the vault.”

One major aspect of the restoration was the Technicolor Dye Transfer Process which Funny Girl was filmed with—a process which had been discontinued for over 20 years by the time Sony started working on restoring Streisand's 1968 musical. In a nutshell, Dye Transfer is a process which used stable acid dyes, imbibition printing, and yielded superior color printing. Technicolor shut down its dye transfer plant in 1975, so the process was extinct in 2001, as most films post-1975 used Eastman Kodak film stock.

Grover Crisp explained it simply: “The basic idea is that the process etches the image and color tones directly onto a special film print stock, creating more fully saturated color for the print. We chose the technique over a more conventional positive print process because it lends a more authentic look to the film, in terms of re-creating the original look.”

The restored Funny Girl is amazingly colorful and vibrant. Crisp says, “that shot when [Streisand] knocks on the door and it cuts to [Sharif] standing in this red velvet dining room... in theatres, that shot gets a gasp every single time. Followed by a little bit of laughter, a feeling that someone went overboard a bit in the art direction. But it's quite stunning.”

Dining Room looks gorgeous in red

There were some original elements in Funny Girl that no restoration could address or correct. “There are a number of optically-created zoom shots throughout the film that were not well-made during post-production of the film,” Crisp explained. “Most viewers will probably think those areas are the ones that were damaged and replaced, but that is not the case. None of these shots looked good in 1968 and, unfortunately, they don't really look any better now.”

Optical zooms in Funny Girl

The shots he's referring to happen at Keeney's (Fanny skates into the orchestra pit) and during Fanny's audition for Ziegfeld (a slow zoom while she reads her sheet music). [Note: Now I realize that the zooms were created optically—after filming had occurred, rather than in-camera. Zooms were barely used during the rest of film, so these two really stand out.]

Jump cut frames

There's another weird edit right before “I'd Rather Be Blue” which has always stood out, too. When Eddie steps on the singer's dress, the film jump cuts to a closer shot, then back to a wide shot. It almost looks like another optical edit—one that cuts out the dancers on the left side of the screen.

Crisp's point, however, was that they could not and did not fix these types of imperfections in Funny Girl, but, instead, concentrated on the technical aspects of the film in their restoration efforts.

Soundtrack/Sound

Since Funny Girl was a big-screen musical, its sound was always an important component since Streisand's voice, Jule Styne's music, and Walter Scharf's score were prominently featured.

“We did a fair amount of hiss reduction and improvement of the soundtrack,” Grover Crisp said. “The only digital part of this restoration was the soundtrack, and we did have this great six-channel format, which we replicated pretty much for the DVD. It's a pretty good representation of what you would have gotten in a theatre. But film noise and hiss was one of the biggest problems with that track, we had six channels of non-Dolby. And in addition to that we had pops and crackles, those usual kinds of artifacts... we did do that cleanup.”

James Young was the restoration and re-mastering engineer who digitally restored the film's soundtrack. He worked with the original, six-track, 70mm stereo mag soundtrack, which was provided by Sony's restoration team. Young actually created two new versions of the soundtrack — a 7.0 version for theatrical release, and a 5.0 version for theatrical and DVD release.

“A big part of the battle was the fact that the original stereo mag was in fairly good condition,” says Young. “The main thing we had to do was reduce the noise to reasonable levels without introducing new artifacts. Some clicks and pops — whether from wear-and-tear or the original production — were removed, and we also spent time digitally synching the original ADR [automated dialogue replacement] work with the actor's lips. In a computer work station, we can do more nuanced synching work in the digital domain than they were able to do in 1968 by splicing blocks of magnetic film.”

Barbra's Participation

Since Funny Girl's director, William Wyler, and cinematographer Harry Stradling were no longer alive, the restoration team worked on its own. “ The supervising editor, Robert Swink, was still around,” Grover Crisp relayed. “I talked to him a couple of times about some things. Barbra Streisand was never really involved, but she knew that we were working on it. You know, she's very technically astute. Of course, she is a filmmaker now, not just an actress, so she was aware of some of the things we were facing. At the end, when we did finally show her the restored print, she liked it quite a bit. She was quite complimentary, so that was nice.”

The nicest compliment Streisand gave was when she first saw the restored film. Barbra pointed to the screen and said, “Now, that is the way it should sound.”

“Funny Girl”—The DVD

Funny Girl DVD

“We take a look at the film,” Grover Crisp explained. “We improve the film as best we can. We do an all-new high-definition transfer, and that gets used as the source material for the DVD.”

In some respects, the DVD may look better than the restored film released to movie theaters in 2001. “For what we supplied for the high-definition [video] transfer, they were able to tweak it, color-correct it a little bit better than we could on film, which is always the case when you get into video,” said Crisp.

As for the sound, James Young's 5.0 Dolby Digital mix was used on the DVD. In the movie theaters, the sound emanated from speakers which were placed left, left-center, center, right-center, right and surround. “For the DVD,” Crisp said, “we just kind of moved that into left/center/right, then mono left and right surround. We had to collapse it a little bit, but it gives it a pretty good flavor of what it was.”

The 2001 Funny Girl DVD was planned as a more elaborate (possibly 2-disc) release. Cut scenes, including the complete Swan Lake ballet sequence would have been included, but were not. Only two featurettes and bonus trailers were included on the DVD.

[Order DVD from Amazon]

2013 Digital Restoration & Blu-ray

Funny Girl Blu ray cover

Back in 2001, a photochemical restoration of Funny Girl was completed (see above). However, Funny Girl's original negative “was full of scratches and torn in many places because they made a lot of prints off of it,” said Grover Crisp. Therefore, the restored film which was shown in theaters and also used for the DVD was actually comprised of second- and third-generation materials “which lessens the overall image quality," Crisp explained. For the 2013 restoration, Sony went back to the original Funny Girl negative. Its colors had faded “but with the color correction system that we have we can pretty much dial that color back in it,” Crisp said.

2013 Restoration Credits

[Order Blu-ray from Amazon]

End.

“Funny Girl” Pages

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