Kodak Inks Deals With Studios to Extend Film's Life

Rule Breakers Issue

Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, Edgar Wright, J.J. Abrams and Bennett Miller were photographed by Austin Hargrave on Dec. 12 at the Vista Theatre in Los Angeles. 

Kodak has finalized deals with the major Hollywood studios that will allow film to remain alive, at least for the near future. This marks the completion of the deal that Kodak said was near-final last summer, when negotiations began.

Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, NBC Universal and Warner Bros. have all reached agreements with Kodak to purchase undisclosed amounts of film over "a few" years that would be enough to extend Kodak's film manufacturing business. The value of the deals were not disclosed.

Andrew Evenski, Kodak's president of entertainment and commercial films, told The Hollywood Reporter that Kodak is now "actively working with the independents. We are currently looking at it film by film, but hoping for some agreements [along the lines of the majors]." He added that Kodak is  also aggressively targeting pilot season work.

J.J. Abrams, who has shot Star Wars: Episode VII on celluloid, Christopher Nolan, who used film on Interstellar, Quentin Tarantino and Judd Apatow are among a group of leading filmmakers who are passionate film supporters and stepped up to urge Hollywood to keep film going.

"The point at which you're told you won't have a choice anymore, that becomes an important creative issue that needs to be brought to people's attention," Nolan told THR in a December interview, during which the filmmakers' effort was featured in the Rulebreakers issue.

Noting that Kodak — the last remaining manufacturer of film — launched a "Film Worthy" campaign at Sundance and Slamdance, Evenski said the company is aiming to spread a message that indie filmmakers could also afford to shoot on film and have access to its aesthetic look.

With the rise of digital imaging technologies, Kodak's film sales have plummeted by 96 percent over the last decade. The decline has accelerated in the last three years as most theaters have converted to digital.

According to Wednesday's announcement from Kodak, the deals mean that the company will continue to manufacturer camera negative, intermediate stock for postproduction, and archival and print film. It also said Kodak would pursue "new opportunities to leverage film production technologies in growth applications, such as touchscreens for smartphones and tablet computers."

Kodak told THR that it has fixed film-manufacturing costs of $50 million a year (for all industries), and it has long maintained that it would continue to manufacture film as long as it made business sense. That was a notable part of the company's plans when it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2013. Evenski said he expects Kodak's entertainment unit to break even on film in the first year of this studio arrangement.

The exec also reported that Kodak is reaching out to independent theaters, urging them to maintain film projection. The digital cinema transition in nearly complete in the U.S. and studios have already started all-digital domestic releases. Evenski says he sees opportunity in international markets that are not as far along in a digital transition, such as certain countries in South America.

Burbank, Calif.-based Fotokem is the last film lab in Hollywood. Kodak shut its L.A. office this past year, but Evenski said that while its local reps work from their homes, film can be shipped to customers or obtained at a local pickup station at Protek.

Oscar nominees that were photographed on film include Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Foxcatcher and Into the Woods. Among the upcoming titles using Kodak film are Star Wars: Episode VII –The Force Awakens, Mission: Impossible 5, Batman v. Superman – Dawn of Justice, Jurassic World, Ant-Man, Cinderella, Entourage and Trainwreck.

"We are not walking away," Evenski asserted. "Kodak is sponsoring the American Society of Cinematographers nominees dinner. I want people to get excited around film again."

Feb. 4, 4 p.m. Updated with additional information.

E-mail: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA