Kodak, Studios Negotiating Last-Ditch Effort to Keep Film in Hollywood

J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino are among the directors rallying to keep celluloid in the picture.
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Christopher Nolan used film on his upcoming "Interstellar."

Iconic film manufacturer Kodak is in negotiations with all of the major studios to make a last-ditch deal to keep celluloid alive as its use faces a steep decline in the motion picture and TV industry, much of which has shifted to capturing images digitally.

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

Kodak is "very hopeful that an agreement will be put into place," Kodak spokesperson Louise Kehoe told The Hollywood Reporter of the negotiations, which were first reported in the Wall Street Journal.

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The film supplier has long maintained that it would continue to manufacture film so long as it was profitable. That was a notable part of the company's plans when it emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last September. But the numbers reflect a dire situation. In 2007, Kodak manufactured 11.4 billion linear feet of print film, while this year, Kodak expects production to drop to 417 million linear feet, a 96 percent drop. The company is the last remaining maker of motion picture film after Fujifilm exited the business last year.

Speaking at the PGA Produced By Conference in 2013, Abrams said: "If film were to go away — and digital is challenging it — then the standard for the highest, best quality would go away." In addition to high-profile directors like Abrams who continue to use film, it also continue to be used — though to a limited degree — in television shows like the Emmy-nominated The Normal Heart.

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Kehoe said Kodak is aiming to keep film available for shooting, distribution and archiving. The later 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.

Kehoe told THR that labs and other suppliers are also part of the discussions, in order to ensure an infrastructure to support film. That includes, she said, the Burbank-based Fotokem, the last remaining lab in Hollywood.

It's believed that arrangements that are being negotiated with the studios would involve some sort of guarantee to continue to use a given amount of film per year. Kehoe declined to comment on the details, including the financial terms being discussed.

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Last September, when Kodak emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy projection, Andrew Evenski, president of Kodak Entertainment and Commercial Films, said in a statement: "The motion picture film business will continue to be part of the company's future. We are manufacturing film, we've inked contracts with six studios, labs around the world are dedicated to quality service, and, most importantly, filmmakers are choosing film. Kodak's entertainment imaging represents a stable and profitable division of the company."

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA