Technicolor’s decision to close its Glendale film lab shows just how quickly the photochemical film business is approaching extinction.
The lab, which employed 39 people, was devoted to processing 65mm negatives and striking 70mm prints for Imax and other large-format theaters. “It’s clear the market has dropped, as you can imagine,” said Claude Gagnon, president of Technicolor Creative Services. “Imax has transformed a lot of their theaters to digital and we were even lucky to have another year, because the volume was very uncertain at the beginning of the year.”
Fotokem continues to offer 65mm/70mm services as well as 35mm and 16mm services, and Technicolor still has one film lab, in Bangkok. But photochemical developing and printing on an industrial scale is likely to vanish soon. “Is it six months? Is it three months? It’s not five years,” said Gagnon about the future of Technicolor’s Bangkok lab. Gagnon said some studios have said that sometime in 2014, there will be no more film prints.
Gagnon said the company’s HR department is working to place the affected employees elsewhere within the company but, “as you can imagine it’s very difficult to move people from a very analog activity to digital.” Technicolor employs 1,750 people in the Los Angeles area, he said.
Technicolor has been eager to shed its analog film legacy business for some time as it completes its transition to a digital services and post-production company. It even dropped any hint of film reels from its logo in favor of a logo suggesting digital level bars.