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Kinoteka’s Archive was founded in 1949, at the same time as the institution itself, as its main organizational unit.
The main activity of the Archive is primarily to collect, preserve and digitalize film materials, as well as other items and documents related to film.

The history of the Archive’s film stock and collections

The initial film stock with which the Archive stared its activities was comprised of around two hundred unsorted and rusty boxes kept in German bunkers in Tašmajdan cave. Due to an unfortunate initiative of the fire brigade, the remainder of a never exactly determined amount of (flammable) nitrate film was handed over to the “Borovo” shoe factory and other industrial companies to be processed. Only a couple of months after Kinoteka’s founding, a stock of about 700,000 meters of film was created, of which two thirds were national film materials. As well as acquiring new copies from film production companies, Kinoteka obtained films in the most diverse ways – people discovered them in their basements and attics, some films were given as gifts or were repurchased, and exchanges with foreign film archives particularly intensified after Kinoteka became a full member of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) in 1951. The Archive’s collection expanded so rapidly that by 1964 Kinoteka was already recognized as one of the five most notable film archives in the world, and today its collection comprises over 100,000 film copies.

The Archive is organized in a number of collections:

  • Films about Serbia from the beginnings of cinema until today. The oldest preserved film in this collection is “The Coronation of King Peter I Karađorđević” from 1904.
  • National films made before the end of World War II. This collection includes films made in the Kingdom of Serbia, the territories of Yugoslavia before World War I, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, ending with the liberation of the country in 1945.
  • Yugoslav and Serbian films after World War II. This collection includes the period from the formation of the new Yugoslavia until the country’s breakup 1992, and Serbian film up to the present day.
  • The foreign cinemas collection, which consists of four subgroups:
    • Feature films
    • Documentary films
    • Newsreels
    • Animated films

Although Kinoteka’s primary task is to care for the national film heritage, with its scope and content the foreign cinemas collection has contributed the most to the global reputation of our Archive. It includes films from 134 national cinemas and makes up about 80% of the total film stock, containing all the most valuable works from the history of world cinema.

Independently of this classification, the film collection is also organized according to image and sound recording medium and mode of preservation:

  • The nitrate (flammable) film collection comprises about 10,000 film copies originating from 1896 to 1952, after which the production of nitrate film tape ceased. This collection preserves a large number of unique copies of films that were considered lost.
  • The inflammable film collection, which is divided into black and white and color films, according to the requirements for their preservation.
  • The video and phono recordings collection (VHS, Beta SP, U-matic), which includes all other analog image and sound recording media except for film tape.
  • The digital, video and photo recordings collection (DCP, BRD, DVD, and DPX).

Preserving the film collection is the main, but not the only task of Kinoteka. The main activity of the institution was specified in 1949 and has not fundamentally changed to this day: its task is to collect and permanently preserve films and film-related materials (books and magazines from the field of film and other film literature, photographs, screenplays, storyboards, dialogue lists, sketches of set and costume designs, promotional materials, models, posters, historical items from the field of cinematography and everything that is of interest to film art and production) and to make these available to the public; to cooperate with related institutions in this country and abroad, and to exchange films and related materials.

Work in the Archives is divided into the following departments:

  • Professional processing of film materials;
  • Professional processing of film-related materials:
    • The Library;
    • The Photo Library;
  • Technical processing and preservation of film materials;
  • Department for the Digitalization and Digital Restoration of Film Materials (established in 2009)

The Archive’s premises for storing film and film materials were purpose-built in different periods. In what was then a remote suburb of Belgrade, Košutnjak, bunkers for storing nitrate films were built during the so-called “pioneer age” of Kinoteka from 1949 to 1954, and these are still in operation today. Modern warehouses (for that era) for preserving inflammable tape, as well as facilities for rewinding film and the storage of film-related materials were built in 1959, today housing the repository for black and white films. A new facility for preserving color films in line with contemporary standards was built with the support of the French Government and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia and opened on 6 June 2007.

Scope of work

Kinoteka’s core activity is the collection and preservation of films and film materials, as well as making these available to the public (collect, preserve and screen). To this end, since the Archive was founded there has been continuous work to increase the film collection through a legal obligation for production companies to submit copies of newly produced films and film-related materials, through repurchases and gifts, and through international cooperation and exchange with foreign archives (which particularly intensified after Kinoteka became a member of the FIAF in 1951, and of the Association of European Film Archives and Cinematheques (ACE) in 1995). Naturally, films related to Serbian film heritage have been prioritized. The film collection is preserved according to the conditions and standards prescribed by FIAF (which vary depending on the type of film tape), specifying the required temperature and humidity, as well as the period for regular rewinding and inspection. The first step was protecting and copying from nitrate to inflammable film tape (which meant preservation in an as-is condition), as well making new copies from original film materials (image and sound negatives), a process that still continues. The Yugoslav Film Archive has made more than 150 copies of Serbian and Yugoslav films in the last six years on the basis of long-term cooperation with the Hungarian film laboratory, and the entire project was funded by the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia.

However, a great step forward in the protection of the film collection was made by establishing a special department of the film archive, the Department for the Digitalization and Digital Restoration of Film Materials, which started its trial work period in January 2009 and officially opened on 8 June of the same year. Digital restoration enables the film copy to come as close as possible to its original appearance — through automated, semi-automated and manual processing of the scanned film, all damage caused by the passage of time is “erased”, and clean images and sound are “imprinted” again in the laboratory.

To make the film collection available, cataloguing was necessary and this started with the foundation of Kinoteka. The founders adopted the British Film Institute’s method for cataloguing, which proved to be the right choice, since the international standards later established by FIAF were based on the same principles. With an increase in the number of films, there was also a need for electronic data processing, which was introduced in the early 1990s, though the traditional system of catalogue cards is also maintained in parallel.

According to FIAF rules, archives must preserve at least one copy of the best positive copy of every film, in addition to the original film materials (image and sound negatives) which can be used for making new copies. This copy is available only in the Archive or the Kinoteka cinema hall, but there is also a large number of reserve copies that may be used for screening outside the archive. Archive copies are available not only to film workers and researchers, but also to film lovers who can view them on demand at an affordable price in a small, specialized cinema in the Kinoteka Archive, in addition to regular public screenings in the Kinoteka Museum. Reserve copies are screened outside the Archive, throughout the country and abroad, at various festivals, for educational purposes and to popularize film art.

During the last decade, with the discovery of films by the first Serbian producer, Svetozar Botorić, along with work on their restoration we have started publishing DVDs, of which the most significant are “The Collection of Svetozar Botorić” and “The Pioneers of Film”.


The film collection has been significantly increased by nationally produced films, distributors’ copies whose license has expired, and especially by intensive international cooperation. Due to the collection’s size and significance, by 1964 Kinoteka already ranked among the five most important film archives in the world.

Recently, a new, state-of-the-art repository in the Film Archives in Košutnjak was built for preserving color films, and renovation of the Film Archives building and the black and white film repository, along with bunkers for storing nitrate copies, has been completed. The Department for the Digitalization and Digital Restoration of Film Materials has been established, and worn out technical devices have been replaced with the most modern equipment, thanks to donations from the European Agency for Reconstruction and Development. On-going work on expanding the film stock was enriched with the discovery of the film collection of the first Serbian producer, Svetozar Botorić (which includes the oldest Serbian and Balkan feature film “Karađorđe, or The Life and Deeds of the Immortal Duke Karađorđe” from 1911), and that of film pioneer Đoka Bogdanović (which includes films from the period 1912—1913), and with their restoration and repeated public presentation.