All material is non-circulating and for reference use only in the library.
Photocopies can be made of most material, at 10 cents per page, or 25 cents per page for 11” x 17” copies.
The library has over 7,600 books on cinema history, theory, and criticism, covering topics such as film history, national cinemas, genres, subjects, studios, scripts and scriptwriting, directors, and actors. A large collection of reference books such as the American Film Institute’s Catalog of American Feature Films and the Film Literature Index, as well as Variety and New York Times reviews, are featured, as is a large assortment of foreign-language volumes. The library also provides access to many specialized databases including AV Online, which lists distribution sources for educational films and tapes; the FIAF International Film Archive Database, incorporating film periodical indexing and information on archival holdings of silent films; and the British Film Institute’s Film Index International.
The catalog of PFA’s book collection is available online, or you are welcome to call the PFA Library at (510) 642-1437 to find out if we have a particular book.
Over 150 different film-specific journals are housed in the Library, including such periodicals as American Film, Camera Obscura, Film Comment, Film Quarterly, Sight and Sound, Velvet Light Trap, and Wide Angle among many others. The library also has small holdings of rare early film magazines, such as the 1940s Hollywood Quarterly, the 1910s Reel News, and the 1930s Screen World. In addition, the library collects many small-press and independent journals and newsletters, such as ASIFA-Animation News, Black Film Review, and Bay Area community media periodicals such as Release Print. Foreign journals are also well represented, with titles including Film International (Iran), Bianco e Nero (Italy), Cahiers du Cinéma and Positif (France), and Cinema Papers (Australia). A card file of the periodical holdings is available at the PFA Library.
The Library’s largest and most heavily used collection comprises some 95,000 documentation files (over 200,000 documents) covering more than a century of film history. The files include materials such as American and international press kits; filmmakers' texts and correspondence; notes from festival and premiere programs; excerpts from thousands of out-of-print publications; exhibitor manuals and advertising campaigns; film reviews; interviews; articles; pamphlets; and other documents. The files also include extensive biographical information on filmmakers, performers, and production artists; and articles on subjects including national cinemas, genres, and topics such as Architecture in Film, Asian Americans in Film, Censorship, Blacklisting, and more. Some materials from the documentation files have been scanned and indexed and can be accessed online through CineFiles, PFA’s film document image database. We are adding more documents to CineFiles as funding permits.
In addition to the published scripts that are part of its book collection, the library also has several hundred unpublished scripts, including both American and international works, most dating from the 1970s and 1980s. Highlights include working drafts for films by Bay Area filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola and Wayne Wang.
Film Festival Catalogs
The library collects film festival catalogs from all over the world. The collection is strongest in programs produced since the 1970s, with some programs dating from the 1950s. Cannes, Berlin, Sundance, Rotterdam, and Hong Kong are a few of the festivals represented. The festival files also hold many rare calendars from local and international film theaters, archives, and revival houses such as The Castro Theater, the Roxie, the Surf Theater, Cinematheque Ontario, London's National Film Theater, and more.
Throughout the years, various national cinema organizations have published yearbooks and pamphlets chronicling their film industries' yearly productions. Invaluable for individuals researching a country’s film output, these yearbooks were mainly issued during the 1960s, but some are still published today. The library features multiple-year runs of yearbooks from countries including India, the Soviet Union, Germany, Italy, Holland, France, Iran, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and others.
One of the library’s most historically important—and entertaining—sections is its collection of exhibitor manuals from the 1940s and 1950s. Designed to aid theater operators in marketing and exploiting films, they give an interesting window into the promotional practices of the period. Due to their fragile nature, special care must be taken with the manuals, and one-day advance notice is required to inspect them. In 2001 the library received a grant to create a digital Internet archive of these works as part of its larger CineFiles project.
Over 35,000 images are included in the library’s stills collection, documenting films from the Lumière Brothers to contemporary cinema. Most are 8” x 10” black-and-white images, in addition to some color and oversize images. The stills are not available for loan, but can be consulted at the library. Stills can be duplicated for private research use within the parameters of the Fair Use clause of the U.S. Copyright Act; contact PFA Library staff for more information. Fees are charged for this service.
The library’s large poster collection contains items ranging from the early 1900s to the present day. Of particular note are several thousand original half-sheets from the 1940s through 1950s promoting American genre films. The collection is also strong in international one-sheets from the 1960s, as well as many recent features. Due to the posters’ fragile nature and unwieldy size, this collection is housed in offsite storage. It is currently accessible by appointment only.
The library has more than 1,600 audiotapes documenting the visits of many filmmakers to the Pacific Film Archive. These important historical recordings can be listened to on site, at no cost. A one-week notice is required to set up a listening appointment. The Library cannot make copies of these tapes unless given prior permission by the filmmaker recorded.
The library has several manuscript collections representing the archives of individuals or organizations, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “Art in Cinema” series from the 1940s and the 1970s; manuscript materials from the late director Allan Francovich; business papers and correspondence from the defunct Soviet film distributor Artkino; flyers and posters for The Underground Cinema, a 1960s experimental film program; and more. Many additional film-related special collections are held at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.