Author Topic: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased  (Read 9021 times)

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O.

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Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« on: October 15, 2011, 03:13:29 PM »
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Quote from: Matt Zoller Seitz, Salon.com
We might as well call it: Cinema as we knew it is dead.

An article at the moviemaking technology website Creative Cow reports that the three major manufacturers of motion picture film cameras — Aaton, ARRI and Panavision — have all ceased production of new cameras within the last year, and will only make digital movie cameras from now on.  As the article’s author, Debra Kaufman, poignantly puts it, “Someone, somewhere in the world is now holding the last film camera ever to roll off the line.”

What this means is that, even though purists may continue to shoot movies on film, film itself will may become increasingly hard to come by, use, develop and preserve. It also means that the film camera — invented in 1888 by Louis Augustin Le Prince — will become to cinema what typewriters are to literature. Anybody who still uses a Smith-Corona or IBM Selectric typewriter knows what that means: if your beloved machine breaks, you can’t just take it to the local repair shop, you have to track down some old hermit in another town who advertises on Craigslist and stockpiles spare parts in his basement.

As Aaton founder Jean-Pierre Beauviala told Kaufman: “Almost nobody is buying new film cameras. Why buy a new one when there are so many used cameras around the world? We wouldn’t survive in the film industry if we were not designing a digital camera.” Bill Russell, ARRI’s vice president of cameras, added that: “The demand for film cameras on a global basis has all but disappeared.”

Theaters, movies, moviegoing and other core components of what we once called “cinema” persist, and may endure.  But they’re not quite what they were in the analog cinema era. They’re something new, or something else — the next generation of technologies and rituals that had changed shockingly little between 1895 and the early aughts. We knew this day would come. Calling oneself a “film director” or “film editor” or “film buff” or a “film critic” has over the last decade started to seem a faintly nostalgic affectation; decades hence it may start to seem fanciful. It’s a vestigial word that increasingly refers to something that does not actually exist — rather like referring to the mass media as “the press.”

In May 1999 — a year that saw several major releases, including “Toy Story 2,″ projected digitally for paying customers — editor and sound designer Walter Murch wrote a piece for the New York Times headlined, “A Digital Cinema of the Mind? Could Be.” In it, Murch pointed out that only two major aspects of the analog filmmaking process had survived into the late ’90s, the recording of images on sprocketed celluloid film and their projection onto big screens by casting a beam of light through the images. Murch predicted that once digital projection became widespread, it would “trigger the final capitulation of the two last holdouts of film’s 19th-century, analog-mechanical legacy. Projection, at the end of the line, is one; the other is the original photography that begins the whole process. The movie industry is currently a digital sandwich between slices of analog bread.”

Near the end of 1999, my former New York Press colleague Godfrey Cheshire published a two-part article titled “Death of Film/Decay of Cinema“, which in hindsight seems eerily prescient. He predicted just about everything that would happen within the next decade-plus, including the replacement of old-fashioned film print projection by digital systems, the replacement of film cameras by digital cameras, and the near-total takeover of traditional cinematic language by techniques that had once been the province of television.

“Camera, projector, celluloid,” Cheshire wrote, “the basic technology hasn’t changed in over a century. Sure, as a form of expression, film underwent a radical alteration with the addition of sound, but that and other developments – color, widescreen, stereo, etc.–were simply embellishments to a technical paradigm that has held true since photographic likenesses began to move, and that everyone in the world has thought of as “the movies” – until this summer. [...] For the time being, most movies will still be shot on film, primarily because audiences are used to the look, but everything else about the process will be, in effect, television  – from the transmission by satellite to the projection, which for all intents and purposes is simply a glorified version of a home video projection system.”

Although I’ve become more of a surly classicist with age, I was an early defender of movies shot on video, and I really don’t see the point of doing a Grandpa Cinema routine, waving a cane and hollering that the movies somehow “equal” film. That’s  silly. Cinema is not just a medium. It is a language. Its essence — storytelling with shots and cuts, with or without sound — will survive the death of the physical material, celluloid, that many believed was inseparably linked to it. The physical essence of analog cinema won’t survive the death of film (except at museums and repertory houses that insist on showing 16mm and 35mm prints).

But digital cinema will become so adept at mimicking the look of film that within a couple of decades, even cinematographers may not be able to tell the difference. The painterly colors, supple gray scale, hard sharpness and enticing flicker of motion picture film were always important (if mostly unacknowledged) parts of cinema’s mass appeal. The makers of digital moviemaking equipment got hip to that in the late ’90s, and channeled their research and development money accordingly; it’s surely no coincidence that celluloid-chauvinist moviegoers and moviemakers stopped resisting the digital transition once they realized that the new, electronically-created movies could be made to look somewhat like the analog kind, with dense images, a flickery frame rate, and starkly defined planes of depth.

But let’s not kid ourselves: Now that analog filmmaking is dead, an ineffable beauty has died with it. Let’s raise two toasts, then — one to the glorious past, and one to the future, whatever it may hold.

Source: http://www.salon.com/2011/10/13/r_i_p_the_movie_camera_1888_2011/singleton/

I feel like the article is a bit sensationalist for my taste, but the content is essentially true. Shouldn't even be a surprise either, this time has been slowly creeping forward, and although the trade of existing film technology will keep the equipment alive, but that won't last for too long. Eventually it'll become more effort for little gain.

What's everyone's thoughts on this?
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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2011, 02:05:08 AM »
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analog filmmaking isn't dead, they're just discontinuing the technology. I always figured that film was too much of a bother to work with and preserve, too expensive. There are great cameras that can replicate a 35mm image, 24 fps, but it would be cool to be able work with those old behemoth's one day.
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pete

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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2011, 03:36:22 AM »
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that's only a linear understanding of film technology: while digital cameras are making progress, scanners and various DI processes are also making shooting film cheaper and easier to handle in the digital age. Celluloid is putting on a pretty big fight right now.
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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2011, 05:40:04 AM »
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it's gonna lose.

so long and good riddance.

if it makes everything cheaper for me i'm all for it.
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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2011, 10:58:22 AM »
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film is the most expensive part of an independent film, and the least expensive for a studio picture. I'm glad I got the chance to shoot on film in school, and even cut on it, but i really wish i had what's available now back then... i would have saved thousands of dollars.

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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2011, 01:56:50 PM »
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A couple of years ago I remember talk about analog tape for recording music was going out of production, but then I haven't heard about it again and still read articles about music being cut to tape. So I don't know if someone else started producing it or if they're using up their last stock or what. With this kind of change you would think at least one of the majors would get the sense to cater to the niche/market and still make money from it or someone start a new company for that purpose.
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O.

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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2011, 03:12:49 PM »
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A couple of years ago I remember talk about analog tape for recording music was going out of production, but then I haven't heard about it again and still read articles about music being cut to tape. So I don't know if someone else started producing it or if they're using up their last stock or what. With this kind of change you would think at least one of the majors would get the sense to cater to the niche/market and still make money from it or someone start a new company for that purpose.

I believe the problem with that is finding manufacturers of specific parts required to create film-based cameras will become more and more difficult after customers switch over to digital solutions and the model ceases to be profitable. A company that dedicates to creating their own film-based cameras would have to create everything proprietorially would have a hard time selling cameras that are so expensive, especially with film rising in price with less and less film being manufactured. The whole system will die off slowly into a novelty -- BUT, if a company were dedicated to repair, upkeep and renting off these kinds of cameras, making new ones rarely, I think it could be pretty good for everyone.
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Kal

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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2011, 05:32:51 PM »
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Evolve or die.

I love film. I love books on paper. I love printing shit. It makes no sense anymore.

You don't get the same quality and options with digital, you get something improved and a billion different options. Time to evolve.

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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2011, 09:50:02 PM »
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The Sudden Death of Film By Roger Ebert

Who would have dreamed film would die so quickly? The victory of video was quick and merciless. Was it only a few years ago that I was patiently explaining how video would never win over the ancient and familiar method of light projected through celluloid? And now Eastman Kodak has announced it will no longer manufacture motion picture film.

The nation's last remaining mail-order company that processes film from still cameras has closed. New 35mm movie projectors are no longer manufactured, for the simple reason that used projectors, some not very old, are flooding the market.
The reason for that is fairly disheartening. Some manufacturers of digital projectors required that existing film projectors must be removed from projection booths before their equipment could be installed. Why? No doubt there was some concocted technical excuse for their underlying reason, to slash and burn the competition. (The distracting gimmick of 3D was used to fuel this campaign.) A great many multiplexes are no longer capable of projecting the 35mm format that has served faithfully since about 1895. One film festival, having received its opening night film from overseas, found no theater in town that could exhibit it.

I remember the first year video projection was demonstrated at Cannes. This would have been in the 1980s. A manufacturer arranged side-by-side screenings of the same material on film and videotape (I don't believe digital was operational yet). So limited was the interest, there were empty seats in the theater. The audience, mostly trade people and some movie critics, were unimpressed. We saw the usual shots of red roses and geisha girls. Film looked better, hands down.

But in 1990, in the white frame chapel of Kapiolani Community College on Oahu, the new Sony High Definition Software Center staged a demo of a 36-inch Sony high-definition TV set at the Hawaii Film Festival. This was its official U.S. unveiling. The industry joke had been, "High Definition TV is five years in the future, and always will be." Shohachi Sakai, who accompanied the set from Tokyo, did not disappoint. "By 1995," he predicted, "these sets will be affordable enough for many consumers."

What did affordable mean? A 36-inch set is for sale today in Tokyo, he said, for about $40,000. "It is primarily for industrial use," he said--used, for example, as a monitor for technicians editing High Def television. "But the funny thing is, we are sold out," he added. "As many as we make, we sell. Japanese are eager to have the latest technology."

Well, it looked good. For $40,000 it should have. And then the technology moved into projection booths. You don't need me to tell you the rest of the story. Until fairly late in the game, however, I was a holdout. I persisted in preferring the look, the feel, the vibe of celluloid. Film had a wider range--whiter whites, blacker blacks, richer colors. Besides, I explained, satellite projection of theater-quality digital would involve a footprint containing every hacker and pirate in the world. Studios would never risk it, I promised. Yes, but why did I assume studios would use satellites to distribute first-run films?

And on and on. I insisted, like many other critics, that I always knew when I was not being shown a true celluloid print. The day came when I didn't. The day is here when most of the new movies I see are in digital. You and I both know how they look, and the fact is, they look pretty good. We've shown a lot of restored 70mm prints at Ebertfest, and they look breathtaking. But 70mm is no longer a viable format. (When any industry says a format is "no longer viable," that means "it may be better, but it costs too much.")

We live in a time few people could have foreseen on that day in Hawaii. I now view movies on Netflix and Fandor over the internet on my big-screen high-def set, or with an overhead projector on a wall-sized screen, and the picture quality pleases me. The celluloid dream may lives on in my hopes, but digital commands the field. I imagine there will always be 35mm projectors at film festivals and various shrines of cinema. Most of the movies ever made have probably not yet been digitized, and in many cases there may be no money for that. But my war is over, my side lost, and it's important to consider this in the real world.

For me, seeing a movie in a real theater with a real audience is an inescapable part of the experience. I watch as many movies on TV as most people, and they're okay that way, but when a movie is on fire I want to sense the audience burning. To be carried along in the dark on a wave of laughter of tears is exhilarating. Therefore, anything that helps theaters against TV in their war of more than 65 years is a good thing.

Digital prints are cheaper to manufacture, distribute and exhibit than film. They also make the distribution of non-blockbuster formats more practical--indies, art films, foreign films, documentaries, classics. Repertory theaters and their daily double features are mostly a thing of the past. The studios have long since stopped making and maintaining regional film exchanges. But today repertory has become thinkable again.

I wrote not long ago that with today's consumer high-def projectors, it is perfectly possible to rent a space and start a repertory theater, assuming you legally obtain the performance rights. Most distributors are happy to work with you--they like more venues. People have written me they run such cinema rooms in their towns or on their campuses. But why, you might ask, would audiences buy a ticket to see a movie they might be able to watch at home on TV? The best reason is a shared common interest. A movie is better with an audience, the ritual is more satisfying, and as new patterns of On Demand form, such venues might get movies before they're available everywhere. They would be another tier in the distribution sequence.
I didn't see this the death of film coming so quickly or so sweepingly, and I imagine the manufacturers of film stock didn't either. Yes, the usual gurus like Scorsese and Spielberg still profess their undying love for celluloid. They both also praised black and white, and made "Raging Bull" and "Schindler's List," and haven't made many b&w movies lately. They've also professed interest in Maxivision, my preference among all formats, which has a picture up to four times as good as anything you can see now. I fear they may have found it "not viable."

Speaking of my fears, I have a final one. Film on celluloid has proven remarkably resilient. Not long ago, invaluable missing footage from Lang's "Metropolis" was found surviving very nicely in Argentina. If we had the missing reel from "Magnificent Ambersons," we could watch it together tonight. How long will the digital file of a new movie survive and be readable? I have memory discs of pretty much everything I've ever written on a computer, but have no idea what format they were created in or how to read them. I also have carbon copies of everything I wrote for the Sun-Times from 1966 until around 1977, when we got computers in the newsroom. I made them on my typewriter. You remember those.

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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2012, 10:34:41 PM »
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Movie Studios Are Forcing Hollywood to Abandon 35mm Film. But the Consequences of Going Digital Are Vast, and Troubling

By Gendy Alimurung
Thursday, Apr 12 2012

Shortly before Christmas, director Edgar Wright received an email inviting him to a private screening of the first six minutes of Christopher Nolan's new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. Walking into Universal CityWalk's IMAX theater, Wright recognized many of the most prominent filmmakers in America — Michael Bay, Bryan Singer, Jon Favreau, Eli Roth, Duncan Jones, Stephen Daldry. If a bomb had gone off in the building, he thought, it would have taken out half of the Directors Guild of America.

"It was a surreal experience because it felt like we were all going to get whacked," Wright recalls.

As the directors settled into their seats, Nolan addressed them with words ripped from the plot of an old Batman serial.

"I have an ulterior motive for bringing you here," the British director announced.

And then he made a plea for 35mm film.

Nolan pointed out that The Dark Knight Rises was made on celluloid. That he is committed to shooting on film, and wants to continue doing so. But, he warned, 35mm will be stamped out by the studios unless people — people like them — insist otherwise.

There is a war raging in Hollywood: a war between formats. In one corner, standing with Nolan, are defenders of 35mm film. Elegant in its economy, for more than 100 years film has been the dominant medium with which movies are shot, edited and viewed.

In the other corner are backers of digital technology — a cheaper, faster, democratizing medium, a boon to both creator and distributor.

A few months later, Nolan steps out of the editing bay to discuss his purpose on that December evening. He says he wanted to remind his fellow filmmakers what photochemical film can do. It is too easy to forget the beauty and power of 35mm.

"The danger comes from filmmakers not asserting their right to choose that format," Nolan says. "If they stop exercising that choice, it will go away. I tell people, 'Look, digital isn't going away.' "

It certainly isn't. James Cameron's Avatar got the ball rolling back in 2009. The 3-D blockbuster could only be shown via digital projectors, and so the first wave of theaters upgraded in a hurry.

Today, the driving force isn't so much a single movie as it is the studios' bottom line — they no longer want to pay to physically print and ship movies. It costs about $1,500 to print one copy of a movie on 35 mm film and ship it to theaters in its heavy metal canister. Multiply that by 4,000 copies — one for each movie on each screen in each multiplex around the country — and the numbers start to get ugly. By comparison, putting out a digital copy costs a mere $150.

"Distributing movies digitally into theaters has been the holy grail of the studios," former Universal Pictures chairman Tom Pollock told Variety back in 2010. "They stand to eliminate billions of dollars in costs in coming years without spending very much."

In 2012, it seems, the grail is finally within the studios' grasp. Fate hasn't yet been sealed on the image-capture end, as directors like Nolan dig their heels in about aesthetics and continue to insist on shooting on film. But even a motion picture shot entirely on film can be converted to digital after the fact. And on the projection side, digital is winning.

This year, for the first time in history, celluloid ceases to be the world's prevailing movie-projector technology. By the end of 2012, according to IHS Screen Digest Cinema Intelligence Service, the majority of theaters will be showing movies digitally. By 2013, film will slip to niche status, shown in only a third of theaters. By 2015, used in a paltry 17 percent of global cinemas, venerable old 35 mm film will be mostly gone.

The repercussions will be vast — and felt down the entire length of the movie-industry food chain.


Upgrade or Die

Hadrian Belove wanted to show Breakfast at Tiffany's for Valentine's Day. As executive director of the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre in West Hollywood, he's used to working with studios to borrow prints of rare or classic films.

But this year it proved trickier. Studios are pushing a new format. And Belove's cinema — a nonprofit collective of cinephiles dedicated to presenting "weird and wonderful" movies — hasn't made the upgrade.

The new format is called a DCP, or Digital Cinema Package. It is a virtual format, a collection of files stored on a hard drive. Roughly the size of a paperback novel, the hard drive is mailed in a lightweight, foam-lined plastic case to the theater, where it's inserted (or, in the lingo, "ingested") into a server that runs the digital projector. DCPs won't run on traditional film projectors, however. So if they want to play the new format, theater owners must update their equipment.

For this privilege, exhibitors can expect to shell out from $70,000 to $150,000 per screen. Because the studios will save so much money on shipping costs, they've agreed to help finance the conversion. For the next 10 years, they will pay theater owners a "virtual-print fee" for each new release shown digitally.

To speed the conversions along, the studios are using a classic carrot-and-stick model of coercion. The offset money is the carrot. The punishing stick? Studios will no longer be releasing 35 mm prints.

It's not so bad for first-run theater chains, which play only new releases. Art-house and repertory theaters, however, which play classic and older movies, are largely dependent on print loans from studios. Increasingly, the prints are remaining locked in studio vaults. Last November, 20th Century Fox sent its exhibitors a letter to that effect: "The date is fast approaching when 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight will adopt the digital format as the only format in which it will theatrically distribute its films. ... We strongly advise those exhibitors that have not yet done so to take immediate steps to convert their theaters to digital projection systems."

John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, drove the point home at the association's annual convention last year in Las Vegas. "Simply put," he said, "If you don't make the decision to get on the digital train soon, you will be making the decision to get out of the business."

Belove, of Cinefamily, believes many theaters will choose just that.

"Hundreds of art houses will go out of business," he says. "Already some theaters are shoving under."

Belove recently returned from a conference of art-house theater owners. Most of the attendees were operating on annual budgets of less than $500,000. Upgrading on that budget is prohibitively expensive.

"The pressure's on me," he says. "I know I'm going to be forced to do a major outlay."

But the alternative also is lousy. Already there are films he couldn't show for lack of a DCP-compliant projector. He couldn't get a print of A New Leaf from Paramount for an Elaine May retrospective he wanted to do. Ditto for Saul Bass' Phase IV for a Bass retrospective, and Andrzej Zulawski's The Important Thing Is to Love for a Zulawski retrospective. Studio Canal in France would supply only a DCP.

"This is classic cinematheque stuff," Belove says with frustration.

And then there was Valentine's Day. Instead of a 35mm print, the studio offered Belove either a DCP or a DVD of Breakfast at Tiffany's.

While Cinefamily couldn't show the DCP version without a costly upgrade, it could choose to show a DVD or Blu-ray. Blown up on the big screen, however, a relatively low-resolution DVD looks, in Belove's opinion, terrible.

"We can look at a DVD right now," he says, walking into the darkened auditorium. On the screen, a trailer is playing. A man and a woman are having sex. "See how the blacks aren't black?" Belove whispers. "That's DVD. Look at the textures. Look at his jacket. Look at his face. You can't see a lot of detail."

After the trailer, the feature begins. "OK," he says, "now it's film. See how much blacker the black is?"

Stepping outside, Belove lights a cigarette and runs a hand through his hair. "Why would I charge people for a format they could see at home?"

For Valentine's Day, he passed on a DVD of the Audrey Hepburn vehicle and played a 35mm print of F.W. Murnau's melodrama Sunrise instead.

While the push to digital and corresponding clampdown on prints make sense to studio bean counters, it is madness for independent theaters. At best, it forces repertory programming to become dull. DCPs are only available for film's "greatest hits," not for the obscure gems people expect from independent theaters.

At worst, it takes away the flexibility that small organizations need if they are to survive. The studios' "virtual-print fee" contracts come with restrictions on which films a theater can show, and when. The exact terms vary. But since exhibitors are required to sign nondisclosure agreements, they can't compare deals.

And the clock is ticking: There is a time limit on the studios' offer to help pay for new equipment. Belove has until fall 2012 to decide whether to upgrade. After that, the virtual-print fee offer expires and he'll have to pay full price. He shrugs. "They've got much bigger fish to fry," he says of the studios. "There's no reason for them to care if 500 little theaters ... "

His voice trails off. "I mean, I don't see a solution to it. It's going to take a major movement."

One employee at the New Beverly Cinema on Beverly Boulevard hopes to inspire just such a movement. Julia Marchese started her online petition "Fight for 35mm" last November. Within hours, a thousand people had signed. By February, she'd collected more than 10,000 signatures.

"It started out as a way for me to say to the studios, please just keep prints available," she says.

The signatories include individuals from more than 60 countries: cinema owners, actors, directors, students, professors, patrons, cinematographers, editors, producers. Some told stories. One young theater manager in rural Minnesota lacks the funds to upgrade and wrote that he worries his small theater will have to shut down, leaving people in a 20-mile radius with nowhere to go to watch movies.

Some protested the entire notion of digital. "Digital is vaporware, imaginary, all zeros and ones," wrote one person from Indiana.

"Turning our backs on 35mm film prints is like never wanting to read a physical copy of a book again," a guy from Saskatchewan declared.

Others decried the Hollywood suits. "Shame on you, big studios!" said a man in Australia.

"Are you greedy so-and-so's out of your minds?" a man in Pennsylvania chimed in. "You made the Harry Potter films! You have more money than God!"

"Disgraceful," chided someone else.

Many worried about what would be lost. "Hug a projectionist today," urged a fellow in Switzerland.


Hug a Projectionist

When Vinny Jefchak first trained to be a projectionist, back in his native Midwest, it was a good job. The old-timers who taught Jefchak earned $45,000 a year in post–World War II Chicago, equivalent to $300,000 in today's economy.

It was also a much more dangerous job. Nitrate film is highly flammable, and booth fires were not uncommon. Chemically identical to the explosive guncotton, nitrate film has its own built-in oxygen supply. Once it starts burning, it never wants to stop. It even burns underwater. The original nitrate projectors had a carbon arc lamp house with a hot bulb focused on a highly flammable piece of film running through it. If the reel got stuck in the projector, you were in trouble. That intensely focused circle of heat could cause the film to combust.

Jefchak once worked in a booth outfitted with metal doors and porthole windows covered with drop-down guillotine shutters. The projectionist would pull a pin to shut the windows if the film caught fire, run out, pull another pin to shut the door and let the film burn itself out.

Booths were often tiny, asbestos-lined spaces. Jefchak knew a guy who threaded films for a huge, glamorous, 4,000-seat theater in a space no larger than an airplane lavatory. Every night, the guy scrunched inside a booth dangling from the attic above the auditorium like a fighter plane's ball turret.

Even recently, some booths lacked air conditioning — allowing temperatures to climb to more than 100 degrees inside. Jefchak would arrive for his shift weighing 185 pounds and leave weighing 180. "It was hellish," he says, grinning. "Purgatorial."

Jefchak, 51, is tall and lanky with a growly voice. He has been a projectionist for 33 years. His dad, a college film professor, taught him how to load his first projector at 19, after which he was trained by old-timers who worked in the combustible days of nitrate film.

Nitrate film is a good example of technology changing for the better. With the invention of acetate safety film in 1948, nitrate was discontinued. The advent of digital, on the other hand, may well be the final blow to the dying art of the projectionist.

Playing a movie on a DCP projector involves plugging the hard drive into the projector, creating a playlist, as you would on an iPod, and pressing a button to play. "You could train a monkey to do it," Jefchak says. "Now they need to corner the market on monkeys."

Jefchak works at the New Beverly, which is owned by Quentin Tarantino. A regular at the art-house cinema, Tarantino bought the place in 2007, when it was in danger of closing. The New Beverly still plays traditional reel-to-reel 35mm, and Tarantino has said that the day the cinema puts in a digital projector is the day he burns it to the ground.

Recalling the quote, Jefchak laughs. "I don't know how to break it to him, but we've been running digital here for as long as we've had video projectors. But I think what he's trying to say is if we go exclusively digital because there's no 35mm print, then he will feel there's no reason to own this place anymore."

Tarantino's dislike of the new medium is shared by projectionists.

"A lot of projectionists in the multiplexes basically are going to be disenfranchised and laid off. So they're freakin' out," Jefchak says. He remains stoic: "They've been telling me I'm not
gonna have a job for the past 30 years or so."

Before the New Beverly, Jefchak worked the megaplexes where automation was the trend. He remembers manning a dozen screens at one multiplex, sprinting down a booth as long as a football field, pressing start-start-start-start down a row of projectors. Soon, thanks to digital, even that won't exist. Cinemas are handing projection over to the I.T. department. Pacific Theaters at the Grove, for instance, now starts its movies via iPad.

Projectionists are not the only ones whose jobs are in danger. It used to take a small army of shippers to deliver films from studio to theater. But digital downloads render physical transport obsolete. It happened to the small mom-and-pop courier that once delivered films to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. That courier went out of business in October.

Economically, the biggest shift is in the release-print market. The six major studios spend $850 million a year to have release prints made, and an additional $450 million to deliver them. With studios no longer needing 3,000 prints of each new film to distribute to theaters on opening day, many photochemical labs have been closing. In Los Angeles, two labs,
Technicolor and Deluxe, process the bulk of these 35mm release prints. Pillars of the film services industry and historic rivals for almost a century, they signed an unprecedented truce last year — a deal with the devil — agreeing to carve up the remaining business and both stay afloat.

A few months later, in January, one of the companies that makes the raw, unprocessed film stock, Eastman Kodak, filed for bankruptcy.

In an interconnected ecosystem, a change in one species causes a ripple effect throughout. "It's all intertwined," says Chris Kenneally, director of the Keanu Reeves–produced documentary Side by Side, which examines the industry's switch from film to digital. "The same companies that make the film that goes to theaters are also the same people that make the film that goes into the camera on the set to shoot it."

Digital projection, Kenneally continues, will push photochemical film out of existence, because the labs that make the film stock won't outlive the huge loss of income.

The mood in the post-production sector is pervasively grim. "Everybody's nervous," says Ross Lipman, a film restorationist who regularly encounters a wide cross-section of industry types, from curators to technicians. "Everybody's kind of looking around to see if somebody's found a way to survive this transition. Because it's like you're walking around a field of battle, and people are just dropping right and left around you."

As one projectionist at a large multiplex put it, "It's spooky."

While money is driving the conversion, money could well be its undoing. The ultimate pricetag of digital equipment is hidden to exhibitors right now. Little expenses add up. Take xenon bulbs for projectors, which retail for $600 a pop. To save costs, penny-pinching theater owners used to run bulbs beyond the recommended time. In a 35mm projector, a blown-out bulb is no big deal. But a digital projector, in Vinny Jefchak's words, is "real delicate shit."

If you use the bulbs too long in a film projector, "Maybe you have a broken reflector," explains Shawn Jones, an engineer at the lab NT Audio. "You clean out the broken glass. But if a bulb explodes in a digital projector, it tends to break a lot of expensive pieces."

Within the warranty period, the manufacturer fixes the machine for free. But if a bulb explodes outside that time, the exhibitor is on the hook. As a result, bulbs must be changed three times more frequently in digital projectors.

While studios are initially kicking in money to help theaters buy new equipment, as that digital equipment ages, exhibitors will bear the cost. And digital is notoriously temperamental. Jones' lab, for example, has already gone through two DCP-compliant projectors in three years — in both cases, through no fault of the lab's. (By contrast, the Simplex XL 35mm projectors at New Beverly are going strong at 60 years old. Like all analog projectors, they use an intermittent sprocket, a cog and a pivot — the same basic gear as a sewing machine.)

With so many rival entertainments, movie attendance is at the lowest it's been in nearly 20 years, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners. In the past year and a half,
U.S. box office receipts plummeted half a billion dollars. Coupled with the larger consumer trend, the expense of digital could be a disaster.

"In five to 10 years," notes one lab technician, "this is all going to unravel in a big, bad way."


Digital Worries

In 28 Days Later a man in a hospital gown walks down the middle of a deserted London street. He passes empty buildings, overturned double-decker buses. A breeze shuffles bits of trash around in the morning sunlight. He is alone. The zombie apocalypse has struck.

That scene, the movie's most memorable, might not have existed if not for digital cameras. Director Danny Boyle couldn't afford to shut down London traffic for more than an hour. But because digital cameras set up more quickly than film, the crew was ready to shoot — with six strategically placed cameras — within minutes.

Many directors prefer digital cameras because of their speed and portability. Boyle's director of photography, Anthony Dod Mantle, went on to win a Best Cinematography Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire, the first digital motion picture to do so. He refused to take cumbersome 35mm film cameras into the Mumbai slums, opting for smaller, lightweight digital equipment to capture the place's bustling urgency and flow.

The constraints of film, however, force artists to master their craft. An old-school cinematographer like Freddie Young, for instance, could shoot on a film camera with no digital monitor to check his progress — and walk out at the end with Lawrence of Arabia.

No wonder, then, that directors like Christopher Nolan worry that if 35mm film dies, so will the gold standard of how movies are made. Film cameras require reloading every 10 minutes. They teach discipline. Digital cameras can shoot far longer, much to the dismay of actors like Robert Downey Jr. — who, rumor has it, protests by leaving bottles of urine on set.

"Because when you hear the camera whirring, you know that money is going through it," Wright says. "There's a respectfulness that comes when you're burning up film."

Cinephiles talk about there being an organic quality to 35mm, as if it were a living creature. "There's literally an inner life," Wright says. "Every single frame is different on every single print. You feel that when you're watching it. I'd be alarmed to see that go away."

In a sense, film is mortal. Every time you play a print film, you destroy it a little bit. Sprocket holes tear. Edges wear. Frames get scratched.

Cameron's Titanic played for so long in theaters that it fell apart in the projectors. Watching it by month two was a very different experience from seeing it at the premiere. All the directors Chris Kenneally and Keanu Reeves interviewed in their documentary — with the exception of Nolan — said digital projection is beautiful and superior to film. It looks the same on play one as it does on play 100. Digital, in this sense, is the immortal medium.

But in the digital age, those who know technology worry that films themselves will be lost.

"What worries me is there's a vast number of films that exist," says Bernardo Rondeau, assistant curator of film programs at LACMA. "Will all those millions of films make the transition to DCP? Certainly they won't. A lot of the films haven't even made the transition to DVD."

With every move to a new screening format, a percentage of films doesn't make the jump. And once they're gone, they're gone. It is a gradual winnowing down of the past. Our entire knowledge of the silent film era, for example, is barely a glimpse of what was actually produced.

If the past is prologue, film preservation hasn't exactly been a priority with studios. Today, studios store their prints in caves deep within the earth — high-security vaults hundreds of feet underground. Abandoned salt or iron ore mines, the facilities are known colloquially as "the salt mines." Supposedly they are able to withstand the blast of a nuclear bomb.

But not too long ago, studios simply threw films away. Paramount planned to burn its old nitrate. MGM was set to dump its original negatives — including those for Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz — into the ocean. What did they need those for, they figured? They'd made copies.

Luckily for the studios, archivists at UCLA and Eastman House took the prints instead. Because, years later, MGM wanted to digitize its old movies and needed the originals back. The copies they'd made, on Kodak stock, had faded.

And even after the films are converted to digital, Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, calls the challenges of preserving them "monumental." Digital is lousy for long-term storage.

The main problem is format obsolescence. File formats can go obsolete in a matter of months. On this subject, Horak's every sentence requires an exclamation mark. "In the last 10 years of digitality, we've gone through 20 formats!" he says. "Every 18 months we're getting a new format!"

So every two years, data must be transferred, or "migrated," to a new device. If that doesn't happen, the data may never being accessible again. Technology can advance too far ahead.

Migration, alas, is a laborious process. Professional labs have automated the process of migrating data from one storage tape to another with robots that shuttle tapes into drives. But a big collection requires a big robot. Then you need someone to maintain the robot.

"Digital snowballs on you," says engineer Shawn Jones. "It starts simple. Then as you grow and use more of it, your costs quickly escalate."

And it's not like studios are making less data. There's always more coming in.

Even worse, it's extremely easy to lose data. "If I spend," Horak says, "as we did on one restoration, $750,000 to preserve one film digitally, and then it goes into a computer somewhere and it disappears, that money's gone."

Think it doesn't happen?

It does.

Five years after the first Toy Story came out, producers wanted to release it on DVD. When they went back to the original animation files, they realized that 20 percent of the data had been corrupted and was now unusable. Granted, digital was new at the time. Surely advances have made digital storage much less problematic?

Not really.

Fast-forward to Toy Story 2, which was almost erased from history. Pixar stored the Toy Story 2 files on a Linux machine. One afternoon, someone accidentally hit the delete key sequence on the drive. The movie started disappearing. First Woody's hat went. Then his boots. Then his body. Then entire scenes.

Imagine the horror: 20 people's work for two years, erased in 20 seconds. Animators were able to reconstitute the missing elements purely by chance: Pixar's visual arts director had just had a baby, and she'd brought a copy of the movie — the only remaining copy — with her to work on at home.

In the digital realm, the archivist's mantra, "Store and ignore," fails. If you don't "refresh," or occasionally turn on a hard drive, it stops working. You can't just stick it on a shelf and forget about it. As restorationist Ross Lipman says, "You're shifting from a model focused on a physical object to data. And where the data lives will be constantly changing."

Because of all these factors, the notion that digital is cheaper is a myth. And that, too, is a worry. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences recently released a study, "The Digital Dilemma." It discovered that it's actually 11 times more expensive to preserve a 4K digital master than film.

Moreover, most filmmakers surveyed for the study were not aware of how truly perishable digital content is. Digital technology makes it easy to create movies, the academy concluded, but the resulting data is much harder to preserve.

Meanwhile, all film needs is a cold, dry place to spend eternity. Under these conditions, archivists say, a black-and-white print on polyester-based film stock can last 1,000 years.


Into the Vault

The temperature inside the main film vault at the UC Southern Regional Library Facility on UCLA's Westwood campus is a nippy 57 degrees. Humidity hovers at 50 percent. This is where the UCLA Film & Television Archive keeps a large portion of its vast collection. Inside the preservation vault — a kind of vault within a vault, for rare negatives — it is even colder. A thermostat on the wall reads 46.8 degrees. With metal walls and concrete floors, the room is basically a big refrigerator.

As the vault's librarian explains, nitrate is "a different animal."

It's kept in a state-of-the-art facility in Santa Clarita in self-contained chambers with a fire-suppression system. Within a year, archive chief Horak hopes to also have a small digital-asset management program in place there. But he has no plans to digitize the archive's 350,000 titles. His strategy for dealing with the digital dilemma thus far has been "baby steps."

The main vault stores newer movies as well as old. UCLA's archive is the second largest in the country (only the Library of Congress is bigger). And it's growing. If a director belongs to the Directors Guild of America, for example, a print of his or her film automatically comes here for safekeeping. Plus, analog donations are up. Where once he'd get 20 or 30 films, Horak is now getting offers of 5,000 titles from distributors keen on purging their own vaults in favor of digital.

Here, films in their flat metal cans are piled neatly atop rows of metal shelves that recede into a vanishing point far into the distance. The cataloging system, based on container size rather than the alphabet, makes for strange juxtapositions. You can find Close Encounters of the Third Kind sitting near Robin Hood: Men in Tights, La Dolce Vita rubbing shoulders with Monkey Shines. It seems somehow both tragic and funny that Macbeth will spend the next thousand years sharing shelf space with The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Motion-controlled lights in the vault flick on and off. Mostly, they're off. The archive is closed to the public, and even staff don't visit much. But that could soon change. With studios ceasing to loan prints, nonprofit archives like UCLA's likely will be seeing increases in requests.

It is also possible, however, that the public may never experience some movies here in their original print format again. "They won't let us show the nitrate," Horak says of a studio he declines to name. "These are films in our vault, and we're still not allowed to show them. It was never an issue before. Never an issue." He sighs. "My gut tells me that this is part of a policy of killing the 35 mm market altogether. Even for classic repertory cinema."

For the moment, many other prints are free to come and go. Near the entrance, a half-dozen 35mm reels of Blade Runner have just returned and are acclimating back to chilly vault temperature on a wooden dolly.

As for Breakfast at Tiffany's, the movie Cinefamily's Hadrian Belove tried in vain to show on Valentine's Day, it's gone. The spot where it normally sits — right under Dances With Wolves — is empty. The librarian apologizes. Someone else has checked it out.


wilder

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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2013, 12:31:28 PM »
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Kodak Lives! Company Will Likely Be out of Bankruptcy in 2013
via nofilmschool

Kodak has been making motion picture film since the beginning of cinema, but earlier in 2012 it looked like the company was on its last legs. Fuji also announced last year that it would no longer be making motion picture at all, so 2012 very well could have been the end of celluloid as we knew it. But Kodak isn’t throwing in the towel yet, as a court decision has approved $844 million in financing from multiple deals and sources in order to emerge from bankruptcy sometime this year.

Here is a bit from their press release on the matter:



This financing, which authorizes Kodak to borrow up to $844 million, strengthens Kodak’s position to successfully execute its remaining reorganization objectives, finalize its Plan of Reorganization, and emerge from Chapter 11 in mid-2013.

“Taken together, these accomplishments, along with other recent developments, such as the resolution of certain of our legacy liabilities, demonstrate the tangible and meaningful progress Kodak is making as it moves through the final phase of its restructuring.”

“The Court’s approval of this financing commitment puts Kodak in a strong position to emerge from Chapter 11. This agreement, in conjunction with the recently approved sale and licensing of our digital imaging patent portfolio, lays the financial foundation for our Plan of Reorganization and a successful emergence from Chapter 11 as a profitable and sustainable company,” said Antonio M. Perez, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “Taken together, these accomplishments, along with other recent developments, such as the resolution of certain of our legacy liabilities, demonstrate the tangible and meaningful progress Kodak is making as it moves through the final phase of its restructuring.”




The company isn’t quite out of the woods yet, everything else still has to fall into place, but it does mean they should be finishing their restructuring in 2013. Film may have a much smaller piece of the filmmaking pie, but it’s still being used on many major projects, and now that all signs are pointing towards the company going back to business as usual (for the parts of their organization that they still own), you don’t have to start buying up and freezing a truckload of Kodak stock just yet.

We’ll just have to wait and see if they can emerge as a stronger company in 2013, but there is no question they are still in major debt — though they should be in a much better position to manage this debt. 2013 could be a huge transition year for film, and while I don’t know how celluloid fits into their business plan, I would hope after this last bankruptcy that they have an exit strategy for that part of their business, too.

Kodak Receives Court Approved Financing Agreement

wilder

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wilder

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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2013, 03:27:43 PM »
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Filmmakers Lament Extinction of Film Prints
April 16, 2013
via Variety

With the conversion of theaters in the U.S. almost complete, the end of movies on film is in sight

Significant cost savings in distribution drove studios to embrace digital projection of movies. Creatives still debate the technical advantages of digital vs. the romanticism of film, and preservationists fret over the fate of cinema classics. But with the conversion of theaters in the U.S. almost complete, the end of movies on film is in sight.

Martin Scorsese is holed up in an editing bay racing to finish cutting his latest film, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” But he’s not too busy to take a break before a family gathering to reflect on a profound and emotional milestone looming for him and the entire movie industry: the end of film.

The Oscar-winning director and impassioned film preservationist recalls a seminal moment from his childhood that sent him on his life’s path. He was 5 years old watching a black-and-white 1930s cartoon being screened at a family friend’s house in Brooklyn when he peered into the projector and saw the tiny images mechanically pass through the gate.

“That was, for me, a kind of mystical moment. That surprise, that pleasure, that urge to create movement somehow happened then and it continues today,” he says. “I grew up on celluloid.”

Little did Scorsese know then that some six decades later, film prints — which have defined motion pictures for more than a century — would be nearing extinction as the digital delivery of movies takes hold around the world.

“There’s a sadness about it, a sense of loss, certainly,” Scorsese says in a phone interview with Variety. “There was a sensual pleasure just watching celluloid … I loved being part of it.”

Scorsese, however, is no luddite, and like many of his fellow filmmakers has come to embrace the digital advances in theater projection as well as production. Filmmaking itself is evolving thanks to the creative possibilities that only digital projection offers — 3D, high or variable film rates, and more. Scorsese shot half of “Wolf of Wall Street” on digital because the medium needs far less light than film, an ideal situation for the streets of New York, the director says. He also opted to make his first family film, “Hugo,” in 3D, which relied on digital projection.

Of course, director James Cameron and his longtime producing partner Jon Landau are making movies that depend on digital technology both in the camera and at the theater. Digital projectors are more than just a replacement for film; they’ve proven to be an entirely new platform that opened up creative possibilities for filmmakers.

“We could never put high-quality 3D on the screen on film,” Landau says. The “Avatar” sequels, which the filmmaking partners are currently developing, will be shot at a high frame rate — another technology that is impractical on 35mm.

Still, there are holdouts, among them director Christopher Nolan, who remain committed to the film experience. Nolan simply isn’t satisfied with the quality of digital projection at the current standard, 2K resolution, which has only slightly more pixels than high-definition TV. “I think at a point where studios try to force theaters into converting by actually withdrawing film prints, that’s a very dangerous situation,” he cautions. “Because it means the vast majority of theaters will be showing something that frankly isn’t much better than what you can get in your house.”

Nolan maintains that 35mm prints offer “a depth to the image that digital formats don’t have. “You’re allowed to be in the world that is being projected in a profound way,” he says. “And, it’s what’s always distinguished the theatrical experience from the home entertainment experience.”

While many share Nolan’s and Scorsese’s deep appreciation for watching movies on film, the Hollywood studios, theater owners and technology companies have worked together — harmoniously, and then sometimes not — to push digital projection to the forefront as a more cost-effective way to get movies before audiences.

According to the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, 86% of the nearly 40,000 screens in the U.S. and Canada have already converted to digital, with the remaining 14% continuing to shrink.

Two years ago at CinemaCon, NATO’s president John Fithian stated that the end of 35mm print distribution would come by the end of this year. His bold prediction was based, in part, on a letter 20th Century Fox had sent to exhibitors in 2011 saying it would stop distributing film “within the next year or two.” Disney had sent a similar letter to theater operators months earlier, advocating for digital conversion.

Neither Fithian nor any distributor is willing to wager exactly when the studios will deliver their final 35mm prints. Odds are that before the end of the year, one or more will decide that the meager returns from 35mm screens simply don’t justify the cost of prints, particularly for their tentpole releases. A candidate that makes the most sense is Lionsgate, which could (although it’s made no such commitment) debut its highly anticipated sequel “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” in digital on Nov. 22.

Right now, though, it’s a wait-and-see game for the studios.

Jobs on the Cutting-Room Floor

Billions of dollars have been spent on the transition to digital, in anticipation that more billions will be saved for studios in the long run. Eventually, when satellite distribution of movies becomes a reality, the cost of striking and delivering one print — which is about $1,000 — could be reduced to $100 or less.

But such savings come with another kind of cost: the human toll it takes on the thousands of people who either have already lost their jobs or are at risk of doing so in a soon-to-be all-digital world. Theaters that can’t afford to convert to digital — which costs approximately $70,000 per screen — will shut down, putting ushers, concession stand workers, ticket sellers and other staffers on the street.

Technicolor and Deluxe have already laid off thousands. Fujifilm has exited the motion picture film business, leaving only Kodak distributing 35mm film stock in North America. And, the Rochester, N.Y., company is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and has also pinkslipped thousands of workers.

Still, studios fear that if they stop delivering film prints entirely, they’d be leaving money on the table, especially outside the U.S. Nearly 60% of theaters in Latin America are still projecting film. Asian markets, however, are at the forefront of digital conversion, and with burgeoning local infrastructures, the new theaters are built to accommodate digital. Some territories are already fully digital, including Norway and the Netherlands. In total, the international market has 53,366 digital screens, which represents 61% of the total 87,063 overseas.

In this country, there are many commercially viable analog theaters still in operation. Consider DreamWorks Animation’s release last year of “Rise of the Guardians”: Though the film was a box office disappointment and lost money due to its high cost of production and marketing, it crossed the $100 million mark in ticket sales largely because of an extended lifeline from subrun print cinemas.

That said, the grosses from 35mm screens on DWA’s recent release, “The Croods” — the last movie to be released at 4,000 theaters or more — were marginal compared with those coming from digital theaters; the pic’s $43.6 million opening weekend saw just $1.3 million, or about 3%, contributed by film-based venues.

The digital revolution was what the studios wanted all along; it was distributors, not exhibitors, who wanted to be finished with film. In fact, the studios agreed to subsidize exhibitors’ cost of digital conversion via virtual print fees.

Yet the imminent end to the delivery and exhibition of 35mm has become a sensitive issue for everyone. No distributor is willing to kick up bad press for being the first to drop film. Distributors and studios are also worried about lawsuits by exhibs that can’t afford to convert, and as a result would be put out of business. On behalf of exhibitors, Fithian insists NATO is trying not to hasten the issue, either.

“It’s in our interest to have film exist for as long as possible. Having dual inventory means that all of our theaters can play movies,” Fithian tells Variety. “In estimating dates, we’re arming exhibitors with information to prepare themselves for the transition.”

Since the deadline for signing new virtual print fee deals expired last September (for drive-ins it expires in June), most smaller theater owners yet to convert now are left weighing their options: Convert or close.

“I thought a good number of the smaller accounts were going to go out of business,” says Robert Milgram, an East Coast booking agent, who represents mostly small theaters (with a total of 220 screens). “As it turns out, they’re converting, but it’s tough.”

Milgram says drive-ins (he represents 16) are finding it hard to secure bank loans in time to meet the June VPF deadline. “A lot of these guys are going through denial,” says Milgram. “Some of the guys are just trying to make it through the summer on 35mm and brace for the fall.”

The indie sector also could be hit hard if arthouse theaters are forced to close, though some small towns like Red Bank, N.J., are fundraising to keep their local theaters (in the case of Red Bank, the Count Basie Theater) up to date or alive.

The majors, who at one time seemed ready to trumpet the completion of the digital transition, have instead decided to pass the buck. They’re balking at providing any specific date as to when they’ll stop distributing film; instead they say the availability of film stock will be the deciding factor.

Most of the studios have stockpiled enough 35mm print stock to last two to nine months, depending on the orders. Universal has the largest reserve, according to one source, while Paramount has none. Studio sources also say they expect the price of a print to skyrocket, from roughly $1,000 per print to $1,600 or more. In fact, the cost of film stock has seen at least three price hikes within the last 18 months.

Kodak Keeps the Faith

Kodak isn’t sticking to the party line. According to the film manufacturer, it’s still producing billions of feet of 35mm stock a year and turning a profit from it — so much so that its 35mm business is a key part of the company’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy. Kodak has been focused on trimming costs — and workers — from its production line in Rochester so it can keep the price of stock reasonable as orders shrink.

As for that big bump in the price for a print, Wayne Martin, Kodak’s film manufacturing-flow manager, insists, “We’re not going to drive a 60% increase in the cost of a print being struck from a Kodak film supply standpoint.” That means the first digital-only releases could come while Kodak is still happily filling orders for 35mm print stock.

The cost of film could also see a major increase overseas: There is only one major lab left in Europe, and it’s unlikely to last through the year. If that happens, countries like Italy and Spain, at only 40%-50% digital deployment, will have to begin importing film from smaller regional labs outside Europe.

According to one studio source, Kodak has promised to let the studios know before it decides if and when it discontinues film production.

In truth, as long as the distributors are still paying virtual print fees, which cost an average $900 per key, there’s little difference for them between the cost of a film print and a Digital Cinema Package (DCP, i.e., digital print). But once all VPF deals evaporate over the next seven to eight years, the studio’s costs for a DCP will plummet. And with satellite distribution, already facilitated by the newly formed Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition, the cost of producing and distributing a DCP will dwindle to $100. At that point, 35mm prints will no longer be economically justifiable for studios.

“This is an industrywide initiative, and it always has been,” maintains DCDC consultant Randy Blotky. “I’ve treated that with great respect in all of our dealings with content-providers and exhibitors.”

For Nolan, the focus on costs is misplaced, even if the savings from digital are real. “This is a professional format. This is about putting on a show,” he says. “It shouldn’t be about the cheapest, the most convenient, it should be about what’s best.”

But the urge to cut costs is nothing new in Hollywood, and it quietly drove the evolution of film — and the look of the movies — long before anyone could imagine a replacement. After the 1940s, for instance, less silver was used in emulsions as a cost-saving measure, with the result being the blacks in films became less striking.

As print orders went up and the time to fulfill them went down, the quality of film prints declined. Filmmakers and the studios had long complained of crummy projection at theaters, and theater owners griped about receiving crummy prints.

These are precisely some of the problems the transition to digital cinema is supposed to correct.

“Digital (has) a certain level of consistency that sometimes didn’t exist because film prints are physical, they get beat up and sometimes are not replaced on a proper schedule,” says Stephen Lighthill, president of the American Society of Cinematographers.

But Nolan doubts that advantage means much. “The multiplexing of the past 20 years has meant that prints don’t stay in movie theaters very long anyway,” he says, “so that’s not anything like the issue it was 30 years ago.” Still, prod a movie pro, and you’re likely to hear some tale of woe from a recent 35mm showing at a multiplex: purple fog from a safe light in the lab, a scratch through an entire reel, or worse.

ilm vs. Digital

The larger question is whether the rock-solid, razor-sharp images that come from a digital projector are a plus or a minus.

“(Film) has an immersive quality, and frankly, a feel to it, a romanticism if you like, that hasn’t yet been equaled by any form of digital projection,” says Nolan. “There’s a depth to the image that digital formats don’t have.”

Cinematographer John Bailey agrees that projected 35mm “seems to have a kind of animation and life to it — a breathing quality. It has to do a lot with the film grain; it has to do a lot with the projection shutters and the fact that every frame in a film print is completely distinct.”

Digital also has as many fans as foes.

But even someone as rabid about digital technology as Landau, who for years has helped facilitate Cameron’s tech-forward pictures, acknowledges that filmmakers who enlist it have a responsibility to make sure the quality is topnotch.

“Digital empowers us and it challenges us because you can get away with less,” Landau says. “3D and high-frame-rate and digital exacerbate everything. The good looks better and the bad looks worse. So we have to have an even higher standard with the quality we’re delivering.”

Bailey also worries that once “films” become digital data, their corporate distributors will gain more power to alter the content, even after the picture is in release. Indeed, Bailey thinks that was part of the studios’ plan all along. “I don’t think this bodes well for the creative community actually,” Bailey says. “For me as a filmmaker, as opposed to a film financier or distributor, it’s worrisome. I don’t know that this is something that is going to jump at us right away, but it’s an inevitable kind of temptation for the distributors.”

For those films already fixed on celluloid, there’s a different problem: Once theaters are all digital, how will prints be seen? What’s more, how will they be preserved?

Despite their varied feelings about digital cinema, Scorsese, Nolan and Landau share a common concern: What will happen to more than 100 years’ worth of movies that live only on film? Without film, will cinema dissect itself from its own past?

“The problem is as the prints disappear, the world of the film collectors disappears,” Scorsese says. “So there are not going to be any more film depots, no more warehouses where there are old prints. It means really the end of a sort of accidental film preservation.”

On this score, Nolan, Scorsese and Landau are united: The digital transition demands that the entire industry take action to ensure legacy titles are not just preserved in vaults, but available for viewing in the same form they were seen in originally.

“I think the answer is making sure as an industry that we preserve the infrastructure needed to continue to show library titles as they were created by the filmmakers of the past,” Landau says. He argues for keeping 35mm projectors in many projection booths, and for keeping enough film stock around so that new prints can be struck when needed. (Fujifilm set aside a considerable reserve before it discontinued its film operation last month.)

Nolan agrees: “Even if it’s not the revenue driver for (the studios), it’s incredibly important that film fans get to see films they love from the past in a theatrical setting.”

Whatever happens with preservation and library titles, the end of film prints for new releases appears certain, a fact that Scorsese seems resigned to — but optimistic about as well.

“All things must pass, to be philosophical about it,” he says. “History of cinema is always changing. And now that there’s a big technological change, you can feel sad about what’s past, but I must say, it’s very exciting.”

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wilder

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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2013, 03:04:09 AM »
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Kodak's Bankruptcy Exit Plan Approved By Judge - Huffington Post

"Kodak said it hopes to emerge from bankruptcy protection as early as Sept. 3. [...] Kodak Chairman and CEO Antonio Perez said that with the ruling, the company is now poised to become a leader in the commercial imaging industry, providing professional services such as commercial printing, packaging and film for motion pictures."

tpfkabi

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Re: Production of film-based cameras has now ceased
« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2013, 11:50:53 AM »
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All of this has seemed to reach my area of East Texas.
Hollywood Theaters was recently bought out by Regal.
In the closest "big" town they owned a fairly new multiplex and an older theater that has been the only $1 movie theater in the area. They run movies that usually are about to come out on DVD, so I assume that means they get prints that have already been run a lot and at a cheaper price.
Regal said it wasn't making enough money, so they shut it down. I imagine the largest part would be that since there will be no more film prints, the only choice would be to convert to digital and that would cost a lot.

Then there is a drive in in another local town. It only opened in the last 10 years or so. They are trying to raise money to convert. I think they said the studios are refusing to send film prints very soon.

I'm curious as to how many of you have been to a drive in theater?
If you live close to any major US cities, I'm guessing there have always been one somewhere close by. There weren't any while I was growing up, so I've never been to one. The local one is set up so that they show 2 movies. You pay one price to get in so you can stay and watch both. Due to Texas heat and my tendency to get bitten by mosquitoes, I have never gone.

At least 3 theaters in the area that were open in the 90's-00's and closed have now become churches.
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