Digital won’t be completely taking over the realm of moviemaking in the near future. Kodak announced on Wednesday that it has re-upped its deal with the five major film studios—Disney, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Sony, and Warner Bros.—to commit to buying undisclosed amounts of celluloid film for the purpose of making movies. This guarantee that these studios will buy film from Kodak will keep the manufacturer in business, which in turn keeps celluloid film alive.
While we may take it for granted now, there was a time when the possibility lingered that Kodak might go away forever. The company was suffering from plummeting sales, but in 2015 filmmaker Christopher Nolan led a coalition of influential directors who lobbied their respective film studios to make a deal with Kodak to keep using film, and thus keep the company in business. Those filmmakers included J.J. Abrams, Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, and Judd Apatow, and their lobbying worked—in 2015 the major studios signed their first agreement with Kodak.
This new agreement is believed to span an even longer period of time than the first one, per THR. And while most feature films released today are shot digitally, film remains a major component of some of the biggest movies of the year. For example, in 2019 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was shot on film, as were Oscar contenders Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Little Women, and Marriage Story. Even Martin Scorsese’s VFX-intensive The Irishman used a mix of film and digital.
In 2020 that trend continues, as Nolan’s Tenet was shot entirely on film, as was Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Bond movie No Time to Die and Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho, and unsurprisingly Steven Spielberg’s first musical West Side Story was shot using celluloid.
This is very good news. Back in 2015, Nolan wasn’t arguing that all studios should only use celluloid, but instead was simply hoping to maintain the choice for filmmakers to use what best suits their vision. With this new deal, we can rest assured that celluloid will continue to be manufactured and filmmakers will still have the option of shooting on film when they deem it necessary. For some films, like Avengers: Endgame, digital makes the most sense. But for others, there’s an unmatched texture to celluloid that makes it all worthwhile.