Fujifilm to end production of movie film as digital dominates

fujifilmPerhaps the biggest surprise about Fujifilm’s announcement that from March 2013 it will no longer make film for motion pictures is that it didn’t come earlier. With movie makers and theaters turning increasingly to digital-based products, the Japanese manufacturer said it had no choice but to exit the market.

One of the big players in the business, Fujifilm has been making film for shooting and projection since it was founded in 1934. However, in a statement issued Thursday, the company said a dramatic fall in demand had led to spiraling costs, forcing it to make the decision to end production. It also pointed out that it will continue to make film for still photography.

“Digital cinema camera shooting has been gaining momentum, and digital editing that heavily uses CG composition and VFX processing has now become common in motion picture production,” Fujifilm explained in its statement. It added that the number of movie theaters abandoning film projectors in favor of digital projection has increased significantly in recent years, pushed by the increase in 3D motion pictures.

The company said that instead it intends to focus on other areas of the film industry, providing products and services designed for the digital workflow of movie production and projection.

Digital detractors

While digital-based movie making is undoubtedly gaining ground, there are still a number of high-profile Hollywood directors who don’t want to see celluloid die.

Christopher Nolan, director of blockbusters such as The Dark Knight Rises, which, incidentally, was shot on film, thinks celluloid still produces a better picture, and that the switch to digital production is being made purely to reduce costs.

At the recent Produced By Conference in California, Nolan said going digital risked “devaluing what we do as filmmakers.”

The filmmaker acknowledged that the quality of digital images has improved greatly in recent years, but that it will be some time before it equals that of film.

Nolan added that while he uses digital technology for editing and special effects, he wants to shoot and show his movies on film. He envisages a day when digital will be comparable to film, but insists it’s not there yet.

No doubt Nolan’s eye is better trained than your average movie goer, but I’ve never heard anyone coming out of a theater saying, “The image quality of that movie was terrible. Ah, I see, it was digital.”

Fujifilm is sensibly doing what it believes is best for the future of its company, abandoning a part of its business that no longer makes any money and instead turning to digital products. One wonders how long will it be before the entire movie industry goes digital, pulling the curtain down on celluloid forever.

[Image: K. Jakubowska / Shutterstock]