Cinephiles have been anticipating the death of celluloid for years now, predictions that seemed on the verge of coming true when Fujifilm closed its motion picture division last year. But Kodak, now the last remaining major company to produce motion-picture film, has received a major bailout courtesy of some prominent film directors/activists.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Kodak has seen its film sales fall 96 percent since 2006, an alarming financial reality that almost led to the closure of its film manufacturing plant in Rochester, N.Y. Kodak’s attempt to get movie studios to invest directly in the company faltered, but a new plan to secure long-term buying commitments from movie studios is reportedly proving successful enough to keep Kodak in business for the foreseeable future. The Weinstein Company, Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and Walt Disney Studios are all currently negotiating commitments to buy a certain, undisclosed amount of motion-picture film from Kodak every year, regardless of whether they plan on using it.
The plan has succeeded in large part due to the efforts of prominent directors like Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams (who’s shooting Star Wars: Episode VII on film), Judd Apatow, and Quentin Tarantino. All four rallied a group of Hollywood directors to support the plan and force the hand of studio executives like Bob Weinstein, who tells the WSJ, “I don’t think we could look some of our filmmakers in the eyes if we didn’t do it.”
Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke says that, with the new guarantees in place, his company’s film division should return to profitability in 2016. But, he adds, the real benefit of the deal will be “a deeper recognition that film is valuable.”