July 30, 2014
A coalition of Hollywood studios is reportedly close to a deal that will help keep Eastman Kodak in the business of manufacturing film stock, despite the entertainment industry’s move to digital production. Prior to the studios’ promise to keep purchasing film, Kodak was considering closing its manufacturing facility in Rochester, New York. Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow and J.J. Abrams were among the notable filmmakers who reportedly lobbied studio heads to save film.
“The negotiations — secret until now — are expected to result in an arrangement where studios promise to buy a set quantity of film for the next several years, even though most movies and television shows these days are shot on digital video,” reports The Wall Street Journal.
“Kodak’s motion-picture film sales have plummeted 96 percent since 2006, from 12.4 billion linear feet to an estimated 449 million this year. With the exit of competitor Fujifilm Corp. last year, Kodak is the only major company left producing motion-picture film.”
Kodak’s new CEO Jeff Clarke had originally hoped for a direct investment in the manufacturing plant as a joint venture, but that proposal failed to gain traction earlier this summer. Instead, the studios will commit to purchasing a set amount of film, regardless of knowing how many movies will actually be shot on physical film.
WSJ lists Disney, Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros. and Weinstein Co. as those currently in talks with Kodak.
The company is “very hopeful that an agreement will be put into place,” Kodak spokesperson Louise Kehoe told The Hollywood Reporter. “Kehoe said Kodak is aiming to keep film available for shooting, distribution and archiving,” notes THR. “The latter is of particular concern, since film is still believed to be the only archival medium that will last at least 100 years without the need to migrate content to new media.”
“It’s a financial commitment, no doubt about it,” explained Bob Weinstein. “But I don’t think we could look some of our filmmakers in the eyes if we didn’t do it.”
“There’s a magic to the grain and the color quality that you get with film,” said Apatow from the set of “Trainwreck,” which he is presently shooting on film. (Abrams is also shooting “Star Wars: Episode VII” on film, and Nolan used film for “Interstellar.”)
“It remains to be seen whether film will find enough adherents to remain economically viable in the years to come, as few young directors still use it. Elizabeth Daley, dean of the school of cinematic arts at the University of Southern California, said only one class at her school, advanced cinematography, still trains students to use film,” reports WSJ.
“But proponents have also pointed out that film is the only medium still used for preservation of all types of movies for long periods of time — even ones shot digitally. Digital files need to be regularly transferred, putting them at greater risk of being damaged.”