This editoriARC is by Iain Marcks, a filmmaker and writer living in New York City. All opinions are his own.
2013 has been a year of big changes for film. We’re talking about the medium, not the industry. Hot on the heels of 4K‘s big rollouts at NAB and CES and Fujifilm‘s discontinuation of their motion picture film business, in April Kodak sold off its Personal Imaging and Document Imaging divisions to its largest creditor, the United Kingdom’s Kodak Pension Plan.
In addition to settling $2.8 billion in obligations with KPP, Kodak will be receiving $650 million in cash and other assets in exchange for the divisions.
The Personal Imaging division includes over 100,000 Kodak kiosks located around the world, photographic paper, photographic film, and souvenir photo products. The Document Imaging division includes things like scanners and related software/services.
Kodak CEO Antonio Perez says that this deal will allow the company to emerge from bankruptcy as it transforms into a commercial printing company.
There’s no word yet on what the future holds for Kodak’s film and paper lines, which are still used by countless photographers around the world. The company does say that the deal will provide financial stability for the businesses that will be “beneficial to those businesses’ employees, customers and partners.”
It’s the kind of consumer news that sends ripples outward to the professional motion picture industry where the prevailing sentiment is that film is either dead or now a part of an elite workflow. Those are the kinds of reactions that push Kodak–specifically, president of Kodak Entertainment and Commercial films Andrew Evenski–into publishing statements such as the following (from The Storyboard):
Today’s announcement of the sale of Kodak’s Personalized Imaging business does not include the company’s portfolio of motion picture products. Kodak has not stopped the manufacture of its finished goods in the 65mm, 35mm, 16mm and S8 motion picture film formats.
In another post, Evenski addresses the concern over dwindling laboratory access, considering how many have folded or merged over the past few years, citing an uptick in photochemical business at FotoKem in Burbank and Technicolor-PostWorks in New York City. Perhaps what’s most interesting is a “new agreement with Sony Pictures, solidifying the industry’s reliance on Kodak to deliver quality products.”
Sony is the very same company that’s pushing so hard for 4K as a digital cinema standard. They’re the same company that mandates certain shows and commercial productions use only their digital capture technology. They’re the also the company bankrolling the biggest motion picture production to ever roll through New York state–The Amazing Spider Man 2–and they’re shooting it on Kodak film.
This isn’t a grand signifier of anything except that there’s simply no telling what’s around the corner, what will change the game, or what will become the new standard. The film industry is a unique one in that its success is largely dependent upon individuality as much as it is committee, which means that the film vs digital dilemma would somehow come down to striking a balance between art and commerce. I don’t mean for this to turn into an ad or an endorsement for Kodak. It’s just that they’re the only game in town now, and their success or failure as a business is the tipping point for all of us.