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Paramount Pictures Goes Fully Digital, Ends Distribution Of Film Prints

Paramount Pictures Goes Fully Digital, Ends Distribution Of Film Prints

Film is coming to an end, folks. Sad, but true. Why, this time next year, there probably won’t be any new films for us here to write about, and we’ll be reduced to doing endless retrospectives on ever-more obscure directors and fevered speculation about who will take home the coveted “Best Re-Release” statuette at the somewhat slimmed-down Oscars.

No, don’t worry, this nightmare vision is but a wild fantasy. “Film” is coming to and end, but in a narrower – though still sad – sense. Over the weekend, the LA Times reported something that many had expected, but hoped not to hear: that the first major studio — in this case, Paramount — was going all-digital and ending distribution of actual, physical film prints. Though they didn’t announce it at the time, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” was the last Paramount film for which 35mm prints were shipped (way to go out on a high?), while “The Wolf of Wall Street” became their first all-digital affair (an irony, given that Martin Scorsese is a passionate defender of old formats and old filmstock). It also feels significant that the last physical film and the first all-digital one from the studio are about wild 1980s businesses…but it probably isn’t. Just a thought.

Like I say, we knew this was coming, but no-one wanted to be the first: there’s still a strong nostalgia for physical prints, and a small but significant 8% of cinemas in the U.S. can’t screen anything else, so this does have a market impact. That Paramount didn’t announce it until after the fact suggests they are indeed a little ashamed about it: but now the secret is out, we should expect others to follow, with the LA Times piece suggesting we might see the end of all projection from prints within the year. For the small corpus of people who actually care, it’s a sad day. Mark it by going down to the cinema and seeing something projected old-style. While you still can.

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PARAMOUNT can go to Hell right now!


As someone who has spent his life making films, shooting 16mmm and 35mm, loving the look, feel, and touch of the medium, it is indeed a very sad day. But the reality is most of us were happy to stop cutting film twenty years ago with the invention of the Avid. Even though it changed the process, sometimes for the worse (too many options, and a generation of lazy filmmakers who don't know how to EDIT) there were so many positives that very few ever went back to cutting film. The advantages of digital post were too great. And now we have similar feelings towards digital projection, which has taken some of the magic out of watching films for sure, but also made the quality and consistency of theatrical exhibition MUCH better. Any filmmaker who has had to sit in a theater and watch their work butchered by a bored projectionist or dimmed by flimsy projectors neglected by greedy theater owners, is jumping for joy. DCP opens up distribution possibilities to lower budget films that were never possible with the high cost of prints. There are other exciting developments on the way (4K, high frame rates, advanced 3D, etc) . Although I miss the the look of 35mm film grain, as well as some of intangible visual quirks of film, digital cameras and projectors have started to deliver results that satisfy even the most picky cinematographers. A sad day, yes, but also the beginning of something new and, most likely, good for everyone.

Ignacio Balbuena

''For the small corpus of people who actually care, it's a sad day.''

that small corpus, includes you?

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