Other studios are expected to follow Paramount’s lead in becoming the first major distributor to end all domestic U.S. releases on film. The new digital-only policy reportedly began with their Oscar-nominated film, “The Wolf of Wall Street” and makes “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” notable as their last movie released on 35-mm film.
This new policy leaves only a small amount of domestic distribution dollars on the table with only about 8% of U.S. theater screens that have not managed the transition to digital. According to NATO, (National Assn. of Theater Owners), Ninety-two percent of the 40,000+ screens in the U.S. have already converted to digital projection. However, that percentage is much lower overseas, and for now, Paramount foreign distribution will continue to support both film and digital releases.
As we’ve been reporting, the infrastructure to support film distribution is disappearing. Technicolor recently closed their film lab in Glendale which had already been downsized from a facility at Universal Studios in 2011. They also closed their Pinewood film lab in the UK.
Fujifilm stopped production of most of their Motion Picture Film products in March, 2013, and Eastman Kodak Co. has ended in-house production of cellulose acetate, an important component of camera film. However, according to their website: “Kodak has not stopped the manufacture of its finished goods in the 65mm, 35mm, 16mm and S8 motion picture film formats. Film remains an important creative choice for filmmakers, and the company continues to produce billions of feet of motion picture film every year, providing the entertainment community with the products and support they have come to depend upon from Kodak.”
Having recently emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Kodak will no doubt be carefully evaluating all of their business lines. We’ve already seen the production of still photo film transformed into a niche market, and it has become increasingly difficult to even find still film for sale in consumer outlets. (Remember when every grocery, convenience, and drug store used to have a whole display section devoted to still film?)
Without the infrastructure in place to support large scale theatrical distribution on 35mm film, it will become increasingly difficult, (read expensive), to shoot motion pictures on celluloid as manufacturing and processing of the stock become ever more a boutique business. Sadly, young “filmmakers” coming up today will likely never get the opportunity to actually shoot film.