After lobbying by directors including Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, and J.J. Abrams, movie studios are negotiating a deal with Kodak that would secure the company's ability to keep producing motion picture film. The Wall Street Journal reports that the agreement is likely to see studios commit to buying from Kodak in set quantities for upcoming years regardless of their plans to actually shoot movies in the format. Kodak is now the sole major provider of movie film following Fujifilm's exit from the market in 2013.
The rise of professional digital cinema cameras from the likes of Arri and RED have hastened Kodak's predicament; the WSJ says sales have fallen 96 percent over the past eight years. But many in the industry have strong feelings for the declining format. J.J. Abrams is shooting Star Wars: Episode VII on film, in contrast to the digital-heavy prequel trilogy, and Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World will be filmed in both 35mm and 65mm.
"I don't think we could look some of our filmmakers in the eyes if we didn't do it."
Tarantino, too, remains a proponent of shooting film and is also outspoken on his distaste for digital projection. "I believe that digital format represents the death of cinema as I know it," he said at this year's Cannes festival. "Screening in digital format is like turning on the television. That's not what film is about." The Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained director petitioned Bob Weinstein of the Weinstein Company over the Kodak deal himself. "It's a financial commitment, no doubt about it," Weinstein told the WSJ. "But I don't think we could look some of our filmmakers in the eyes if we didn't do it."
Kodak is reportedly now in the stages of arranging formal commitments from studios including Warner Bros., Universal, Paramount, Disney, and Weinstein. New CEO Jeff Clarke expects Kodak to lose money on film production this year and return to profit by 2016, but believes there's more to the deal than the company's bottom line. "A large part of this will be a deeper recognition that film is valuable," he says.