Kodak to keep making movie film, with Hollywood's support

Kodak's sales of movie film have fallen 96% in the last 10 years because of conversion to digital displays

It looks like Hollywood's in for some more Kodak moments.

Eastman Kodak Co., one of the world's most recognizable film suppliers, is finalizing agreements with industry leaders to keep celluloid in the future of film.

"After extensive discussions with filmmakers, leading studios and others who recognize the unique artistic and archival qualities of film, we intend to continue production," Kodak Chief Executive Jeff Clarke said in a statement Wednesday. "Kodak thanks these industry leaders for their support and ingenuity in finding a way to extend the life of film."

Kodak's sales of motion picture film have declined 96% in the last 10 years because of a widespread conversion to digital displays of movies worldwide, according to data provided by the company.

Founded by George Eastman, Kodak launched the first commercial transparent roll film in 1889. Since then, the company has won 30 awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including nine Oscar statuettes.

The company, based in Rochester, N.Y., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2012 after seeing falling profit or a loss in every year except one since 2003. At the time, the company laid off 47,000 workers, closed 13 manufacturing plants and 130 processing labs.

It emerged from bankruptcy in September 2013. Less than a year later, Clarke was appointed CEO.

The company is one of the last film suppliers of significant size left. In 2011, there were 260 motion picture processing labs operating worldwide, according to Kodak data. As of October 2013, that number had diminished to 111.

Louise Kehoe, a spokeswoman for Kodak, said that industry support enables the company "to plan ahead and maintain production of film for the industry while gearing up for new markets, such as touch sensors." Film currently accounts for about 6% of the company's revenues, Kehoe added.

Industry efforts include "maintenance of film as a premium distribution mechanism, outreach to film schools and a commitment to the maintenance of celluloid as an acquisition and exhibition format," she said.

The effort to ensure the future of film comes from major film studios, independents and filmmakers. Many Hollywood hotshots, including directors Chris Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Judd Apatow and Quentin Tarantino, are among the supporters of film.

At the annual Scientific and Technical Awards banquet in February, Nolan presented the Academy Award of Merit to a collective group of people who built and operated film laboratories for more than a century of service to the motion picture industry.

Nolan, who called the processing of photochemical film "the technology that livened the heart of filmmaking and still represents the gold standard of imaging technology," commended the "alchemists … turning silver and plastic into dreams."

"It will be on display as a permanent reminder to future generations of the fine work of all these men and women," Nolan said of the Oscar statuette. "This award is in recognition of the first 100 years of this fine work. I personally am very excited for the next 100 years."

The Wall Street Journal first broke the news about negotiations.

Shares of Kodak closed Wednesday at $24.70, down 74 cents, or 2.91%.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
57°