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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Paramount kills celluloid

I’ve never been one of those film fans who believes celluloid is better than digital — honestly, I’m not sure I can even tell the difference in the projection. Still, this is big. From “End of film: Paramount first studio to stop distributing film prints” at the Los Angeles Times:

In a historic step for Hollywood, Paramount Pictures has become the first major studio to stop releasing movies on film in the United States.

Paramount recently notified theater owners that the Will Ferrell comedy “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” which opened in December, would be the last movie that would it would release on 35-millimeter film.

The studio’s Oscar-nominated film “The Wolf of Wall Street” from director Martin Scorsese is the first major studio film that was released all digitally, according to theater industry executives who were briefed on the plans but not authorized to speak about them.

There could be some potential upsides to this. Cheaper and easier physical distribution means more films could possibly appear on a big screen in less premium multiplex slots not given over to the blockbusters. In other words, instead of showing The Wolf of Wall Street on a Wednesday morning when few patrons are likely to show up, a multiplex could schedule a movie club screening of, oh, Raging Bull, which the manager would just download from a studio library the night before. But this would require that the studios and distributors agree to entirely revamping the current distribution model, which now involves guaranteed dedicated weekly blocks of screens. Which will never happen, so never mind.

posted in:
movie buzz
  • Karl Morton IV

    It’s killing off the privately owned non-multiplex theaters that can’t afford the massive equipment upgrade – which is probably a feature, not a bug. The Colorado town my Mom lives in, which is not exactly the back end of beyond, probably won’t have a cinema any more this time next year.

  • That sucks. Apparently, though, it’s only a very small percentage (about 8 percent according to the LA Times) of US theaters that haven’t upgraded.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    They did a story about that on Colorado Public Radio a few months back. This was the takeaway: digital projectors aren’t cheap, no, but these theater owners have known for years that this was coming. And Colorado is one of several states (I don’t know the exact figure) that have set aside public money for loans and grants for exactly this purpose: helping small, rural, independent movie theaters defray some of the costs of the transition. But depressingly few such theaters have availed themselves to these programs, opting instead to board up their operations instead.

  • Ken Patterson

    Apparently the LA Times hasn’t been paying attention, but Fox told us over year ago that they were ceasing film distribution (though you can still get some older titles sent, we’re showing Princess Bride this weekend in 35mm). They also said that we can no longer use BD as a source, and would have to use a DCI compliant system ($$$). Our theatre is in a untenable situation, in that we’re trying to secure a permanent home. Our previous one was leveled at the beginning of the year, and our current one that we’re only using on weekends (the owners run 1st run the rest of the week) is under threat.

  • RogerBW

    Yeah, DRM and restrictions on showings will survive in theatres when they’ve been forgotten by consumers at home. And that may well be what kills theatres. I know fewer and fewer people now who actually bother to go to cinemas any more.

  • Karl Morton IV

    Apparently there aren’t enough funds to upgrade every cinema in the state, and a lot of cinema owners are being quietly discouraged from applying – but who knows what’s actually going on there?

    You don’t happen to know who’s running these grants and things, where information might be found? I’ve googled and a bit but have no idea what the official program is called. I’d pass the information along to my Mom, who likes the odd night out at the pictures, and is liable to do something about this. :)

  • Karl Morton IV

    How is that number calculated, I wonder? I heard that the digital projectors are going in at a much higher rate than the magical internet connections to the studios, so… *shrug*

  • Dr. Rocketscience
  • Did you read the linked article? It includes this:

    Other studios were expected to jump on the digital bandwagon first. 20th Century Fox sent a letter to exhibitors in 2011 saying it would stop distributing film “within the next year or two.”

    The story is that Paramount has actually finally done it. Fox still hasn’t.

  • Martin

    If it makes it easier for cinemas to play old classics and movie mararthons, I’m all for it.
    I’ve watched the first Back to the Future and the Director’s Cut of LIttle Shop of Horrors in the cinema thanks to this at my local cinema which is something I’d never thought I’d ever see. I’ve always stated that my first action upon gaining access to a time machine would be to go back and watch BttF since I was naught but a baby when it came out. How wierd that I’ve crossed something of *that* list?

    But I’m sure that particular aspect of digital distribution won’t be fully realised for a long time.


  • Karl Morton IV

    Many thanks, Dr. R! I did not see that when I was poking around. Mom’s cinema is on that list, so I’ve no idea what’s going on. I forwarded it on to her anyway.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    No prob. :)

  • Beowulf

    I finally saw a theater employee carrying out a rectangular object about the size of a bread box (Child: “Mom, what’s a bread box?” Mom: “Shut up and eat your Happy Meal.”). The modern film.

    Films used to come in large many-sided metal containers that weighed a ton. The studios and distributors, years ago, were supposed to try to take some of the money saved by no longer having film reproduction and shipping costs and help theater owners equip their theaters with DPs.

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