Some of the biggest names in modern filmmaking -- not to mention sci-fi cinema -- have teamed up to rescue film itself from the dustbin of history.
By film itself, I mean film stock -- the actual celluloid material that movies were shot on for decades until the digital age revolutionized (for better or worse) the industry. The last manufacturer of film stock, Kodak, has seen its sales plunge from 12.4 billion feet of film in 1996 to under 500 million this year, threatening the existence of the company and the continued production of film.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Kodak reached out to the major Hollywood studios to see about making some sort of deal to keep film alive by having them invest in the company's plant in upstate New York, which was facing closure.
That offer was turned down, but that's where some of the industry's creative heavyweights stepped in. Directors like Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Quentin Tarantino and Judd Apatow lobbied the heads ot the major studios to strike an agreement in which the companies will buy large quantities of film stock from Kodak every year -- enough to keep the business afloat -- even if they don't know how many of their productions will eventually use it. But that means that filmmakers like Nolan and Abrams -- who prefer film to digital -- will continue to have the choice to use whichever medium they wish.
Weinstein Company co-chair Bob Weinstein, whose company is one of those making the deal, said:
"It's a financial commitment, no doubt about it. But I don't think we could look some of our filmmakers in the eyes if we didn't do it."
It also means that film will not die out just yet. Look, both formats have their pros and cons: digital is cheaper, uses less raw material and makes production move faster, but film captures a certain kind of effect and image that even the best in digital cinematography (which is pretty astounding these days) can't quite match. Film is also the best way to archive movies, if preserved right, since digital archives are yet to be proven fully reliable.
J.J. Abrams, who is currently shooting Star Wars Episode VII on film, said in a separate interview:
"I’m actually a huge fan of digital as well. I appreciate how that technology opens the doors for filmmakers who never had access to that level of quality before. However, I do think film itself sets the standard for quality. You can talk about range, light, sensitive, resolution -- there’s something about film that is undeniably beautiful, undeniably organic and natural and real.
"I would argue film sets the standard and once it’s no longer available, the ability to shoot the benchmark goes away. Suddenly you’re left with what is, in many cases, perfectly good but not necessarily the best, the warmest, the most rich and detailed images."
This seems like one of those times when Hollywood is actually getting it right. Are you glad to see the studios and some of their most important filmmakers banding together to save film? As a moviegoer, do you want them to continue to have the choice to shoot on film if they want?