35mm Film is About to Die – Studios Plan to Go With All Digital Projection by 2014
The debate about the merits of film vs. digital is still a hot button topic amongst cinephiles, but it seems the film supporters are re-arranging deck chairs at this point. There's a new report suggesting that studios will stop distributing 35 millimeter film to theaters by the end of 2013.
This comes from Deadline, and they note that many theaters are already converted, but - as filmmakers like Peter Jackson and James Cameron want to use 48 or 60 frames per second for their movies - they may still have to upgrade those machines. As of the end of last year, over half the screen in America are digital.
Though there are artistic ramifications in the differences between film and video, the reason why the studios want digital is because the price of striking and shipping prints has always been a burden. With film stock about to get more expensive, this will eliminate millions of dollars of overhead. To put it in perspective: six reels of film (about a two hour movie) weighs 50 pounds, and an average wide release goes to 3,000 locations around the country. For a blockbuster, that could mean six thousand prints because of theaters showing the film on multiple screens.
If film does go away, it raises a very important question: Will 'Django Unchained' be Quentin Tarantino's last movie? He's said that when film goes away so will he. But at this point this is the future of movies, and perhaps in the near future it will be antiquated to call them films.