UPDATE: Add Martin Scorsese to the parade of directors applauding Kodak’s decision to continue producing film stock. He acknowledges that cameras shooting digital HD “are lighter, it’s much easier to shoot at night, we have many more means at our disposal for altering and perfecting our images. And, the cameras are more affordable: films really can be made now for very little money. Even those of us still shooting on film finish in HD, and our movies are projected in HD.” What’s more, film “is cumbersome and imperfect and difficult to transport and prone to wear and decay.”
Still, “Film, even now, offers a richer visual palette than HD.” It’s also “still the best and only time-proven way to preserve movies. We have no assurance that digital informaton will last, but we know that film will, if properly stored and cared for. Our industry – our filmmakers – rallied behind Kodak because we knew that we couldn’t afford to lose them, the way we’ve lost so many other film stocks. This news is a positive step towards preserving film, the art form we love.”
PREVIOUS, Wednesday: Celluloid lives to film another day: “After extensive discussions with filmmakers, leading studios and others who recognize the unique artistic and archival qualities of film, we have in place a plan that will enable us to continue production” of film stock, Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke says. The company once famous for “Kodak moments” will make about 450M linear feet of film — about 1/28 its output in 2006 as Hollywood has shifted to digital recording and projection.
Kodak was about to go to zero — with plans to close the last remaining film production plant, in Rochester, NY — before directors including Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, and J.J. Abrams and several studios lobbied for a reprieve. (Abrams is shooting Star Wars Episode VII on film.) Kodak relented after Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount, Disney, and Weinstein Co. committed to buy a set amount of film stock for several years, the company says, confirming a report in The Wall Street Journal.
“Kodak’s sales of motion picture film have declined by 96% over the last ten years, with an acceleration of the decline over the last two years due to the rapid completion of the conversion to digital display of movies worldwide,” Clarke says. “These ongoing, steep declines in motion picture volumes have challenged profitability in the traditional film business for Kodak, which now accounts for about 6% of the company’s revenues.” With the new deal, he said, the company can “maintain production of film for the entertainment industry while we gear up for new markets such as touch sensors.”
Competitor Fujifilm exited the film manufacturing business last year. In September, when Kodak emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, one exec called entertainment and commercial film “a stable and profitable division,” adding that he remained confident in “our ongoing ability to provide value to the motion picture and television industries.”