Mark Twain once wrote, "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." In regard to shooting and exhibiting motion picture film, unfortunately, the rumors are quickly becoming true. And nowhere does the coming end of film as a significant distribution medium hit home harder than at your local movie theater. Sometime next year, chances are slim that you'll find any new movie theaters projecting the latest blockbuster on 35mm film.
This is no factoid; it's a prediction from the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). By the year 2013, NATO predicts that no major studio will find it in their best interests to distribute a motion picture on film to your local cineplex. Film projectors may still be around, but according to NATO president John Fithian, "They wouldn't be in the theaters you would want to be in, such as major-market theaters. If you're a studio, it would be crazy to do an all-film film [release]."
But if you look around the production world, motion picture film is still being used, especially on big-budget and high-profile productions. In the artistic community, there are still many filmmakers who have the clout to shoot film. Producer/director Steven Spielberg, well known for his love of traditional filmmaking practices, shot his last live-action film, 2012 Academy Award® Best Picture-nominated War Horse, with ARRICAM and ARRIFLEX film cameras. The 2012 Oscar® winner, The Artist, was shot by cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman on color film stock that was transferred to black-and-white to match its "old-Hollywood" storyline. And there are many others.
CELLULOID DREAMS ARE FADING
While the look of images captured on film remains near and dear to the hearts of cinephiles, new technology and economics are quickly eroding the role that film has played in production for better than a century.
When ABC-TV promoted this year's Oscars® telecast, viewers could still see glimpses of the eponymously named Kodak Theatre, the home to the Oscars® for several years, but according to the audio tracks on the promos, they were looking at the Hollywood & Highland Center. Not long before the broadcast, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and had asked to be released from having its name attached to the theater. It was a massive blow to the Hollywood psyche that brought home the message of a film-less future in a way that no other news development could.
Not even the news doled out over several months previously that ARRI, Aaton and Panavision have stopped making film cameras had quite the impact of the Kodak announcement. Even when Kim Snyder, president of Kodak's Entertainment Imaging division, released a statement saying the company is still producing "billions of feet" of film, and will soon reveal plans for a new Vision3 color negative stock, there was little doubt that we're witnessing the long goodbye of motion picture film.