Fujifilm announced that it has ceased production of most of its movie film products as of last month. With Kodak on very shaky ground and the continuing rapid improvements in digital cinema cameras, it is only a matter of time until the oldest modern storage medium ceases to be in production.
What is killing the film market is not that more directors are shooting digitally. It's the fact that movie theaters are converting from film to digital projection.
While a major Hollywood film might shoot a few hundred thousand feet of film stock, the real payoff for film vendors is when several thousand copies are made for physical distribution to movie theaters around the world.
Fujifilm will continue to make some recording film for uses such as long-term archiving, but they have discontinued their color positive film, color negative film, black-and-white positive and negative film, intermediate film, sound recording film, high contrast panchromatic films and, in Japan only, the chemicals needed to produce and develop these films.
What about cameras?
Film cameras are also going out of production, but this is a much less serious problem. Film cameras are built like tanks and last for decades.
The most costly item in pro shops is neither camera or film, but lenses. They don't wear out and can be adapted to digital, so the cost of moving to digital is lower than you might think.
The Storage Bits take
It may be that someone will stockpile the manufacturing equipment and chemicals required to make motion picture film, as they have for Polaroid film. That equipment will be very cheap, and as long as the chemicals are still available, probably not that difficult to produce.
But we are seeing the end of an era: The first modern storage medium to become obsolete. Digital cameras will only continue to improve, and there will be less and less reason to use film going forward.
Film-loving purists will complain for decades to come, but for the rest of us, it is the story, not the technology, that counts. Digital makes 3D video much simpler than film, as well.
Comments welcome, as always.