Since the aesthetic and historical value of motion pictures received universal recognition, films andcinema have been officially considered cultural heritage and therefore worthy of being preserved.Once defined and classified the
, this Master thesis discusses the issueof its preservation and access within the theoretical framework of cultural economics. Morespecifically, the research question addressed is: what is the impact of digitalization and the Interneton the cinematographic heritage sector?The paper is divided into two parts. In Part I – in which the main literature is reviewed, ranging fromthe cultural economy of heritage to the economic analysis of the cultural industries (includingissues related to copyright), and from the literature developed within film archival practices to thecurrent debate on digitalization – the topic and the research question are investigated theoretically.At first, a case is made for the definition of a new category of heritage, labelled ‘informationheritage’, which differs from both the tangible and the intangible heritage and whose essentialattribute is
. The information heritage comprises all the products of the contentindustries and (only) within this category digitization
preservation; as far as films areconcerned, however, only their ‘content’ but not their ‘narrative’ can be transferred on new media,hence the authenticity value of a movie’s original negative and prints must be acknowledged.Having outlined the domain of the inquiry, the section continues with the application of the culturaleconomic theory on heritage to the cinematic sector, with the description of how the world of filmpreservation is organized (how archives, cinémathèques and film museums operate) and finallywith the investigation of the revolutionary changes digital technologies have brought about in thefield. The cultural economic analysis of a concrete example of a large-scale film heritagedigitization project is also included.Part II, the empirical section of the thesis, researches how the potential power of digitalization iscurrently used (or not used) in the cinematographic heritage field and in particular how theaudiences perceive this new reality. To address those objectives, a survey is designed, organizedaround a central willingness to pay question. The sample is selected among the users of YouTubewho normally watch, upload and/or comment on (parts of) heritage movies on the ever increasinglypopular website. The data collected is subsequently analysed both with descriptive statistics andeconometrics (logistic regression). The outcome of the survey shows that peer-to-peer networksand online video on demand systems are considered the best ways of delivery of cinematicheritage content, especially in terms of accessibility. The results of the data analysis suggest thatthis occurs because (for several reasons) cultural institutions do not offer a satisfactory alternativeand ignore contemporary audiences’ needs.In the concluding section, further research is recommended into the development of legalalternatives to YouTube and the torrents (that should occur under the supervision of experts),including extensive WTP studies that would help understanding how to maximize the revenuecapture potential of the systems and assure their economic sustainability overtime.