"I think everyone looks at Kodak's name coming off the theater with a degree of sadness mixed with respect," said Chris McGurk, chief executive of Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp., which installs digital projectors for thousands of movie screens and is getting into the business of putting live video feeds into theaters. "It's just that the tide has shifted. The digital rollout is moving great guns. It's unfortunate that the great companies that helped build the film business can't all be part of it going forward."
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which declined to comment for this story, is reportedly considering a move to a different venue.
The Academy won't suffer financially from the unpaid fee, since it doesn't have a direct relationship with Kodak and most of its $100 million annual budget comes from licensing the Oscar ceremony's broadcast, according to Moody's Investors Service. The Academy leases the space from CIM Group.
It's not as if Kodak didn't see the digital future coming. Last October, Kodak licensed its patented laser projection technology to Imax Corp. to allow digital projectors to work in domes and other huge theaters that were once reserved for film.
Even if its name is gone from the Oscars, Kodak will still be a part of filmmaking, as long as Academy voters continue to pick movies with that rich, grainy "film look." Kodak stock film was used to shoot Oscar-nominated movies such as "War Horse," ''The Tree of Life," and "The Help," even though the captured images were converted for digital editing and delivery.
Mark Graziano, senior vice president of post-production at "War Horse" maker DreamWorks Studios, said the end of the sponsorship serves as a reminder of the "lost art" of film production, and of the workers who once had titles like "negative cutter." It used to take two weeks, for example, just to prepare a rough cut for studio executives to view in screening rooms. The process is nearly instantaneous now.
"It makes you nostalgic for the days when we only worked with 35-millimeter film," Graziano said, noting that film still has a place at many studios. "You look at many filmmakers that swear by film capture, their movies always look gorgeous. It's hard to turn your back on that."
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