I Heart Celluloid

From journalist article ‘The Reel Thing’, The Age, Thursday May 10 2007:

I’m surprised at how slowly digital has been embraced by exhibition and distribution. A cinema film print is worth $2000,” [ACMI head of film programs Richard Sowada] says.

An equivalent digital version of a feature film costs about $190.

In the US, the average big feature requires 3000 film prints for global distribution. According to Dodona’s forecasts, distributors can expect to save more than $US3.4 million ($A4.1 million) a film when they no longer have to produce 35mm prints.

This is a scary fact, because while celluloid still currently retains domination over the production of cinema, I don’t imagine a benefit such as this will stay ignored for much longer. Even though I am sure many filmmakers love film, I just don’t have enough faith in the world to assume they will stick with it forever.

I seem to be adopting a purist tack here where I do not in all other areas of culture, but the magnificent sense of presence within a film that is derived from watching 35mm just cannot be captured with digital. If use of celluloid is worked out of the film industry, an essential aspect of film’s materiality will be lost. The most recognisable signifiers of the cinema, a movie camera and a reel of film, will become nullified, its tangibility disrupted.

Nonetheless, I cannot dispute the significance of digital cinema for certain things, such as the expansion of the cinematic sphere to more parts of the globe – see, for example, Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, 2002) – bringing into the public issues, spaces and cultures that have previously been less able to project themselves. But for industries like Hollywood that have a huge (ridiculous) amount of capital and growth to fund their projects, and even ‘arthouse’ films that want to claim ‘authenticity’, celluloid should not be rejected.


About cinemelo

I love to write about film and comment on culture. Hopefully providing insight and interesting thoughts for fellow cultural itinerants.
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One Response to I Heart Celluloid

  1. Dali says:

    It’s really an exhibition problem. Filmmakers want to make their films accessable to as many people as possible, and currently the way to do this is through celluloid.

    Plus, as soon as you are releasing on digital, it begs the question – why release in the cinema at all? Why not just DVD and Youtube? I think this is a question the system is trying to avoid answering.

    What it’s waiting for really is another Star Wars to come in and demand to only be shown in cinemas with digital projection like Lucas did with Dolby sound – that would force everyone to switch.

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