Company's film services dwindle to New York, Barcelona labs

The film lab workers at Deluxe Hollywood may have an Oscar to honor their contributions to the motion picture biz, but as of May 9, they won’t have jobs — at least, not jobs working with film.

That’s the date Deluxe will close its Hollywood film processing lab for good. 

The company’s chief marketing and revenue officer, Peter Feigin, told VarietyIt’s become not economically feasible for us to continue running (the lab) as a business… at a macro level, this is about less and less studios are using film. 

Feigin said 80 to 100 jobs will be affected, though some workers would be relocated within the company, which has some 3000 employees in the U.S. 6000 worldwide, and is growing its workforce, Feigin said. The company has not decided yet what will become of the physical plant in Hollywood where the lab now resides.

Post supervisors and other Deluxe customers received the news by letter yesterday, March 5, in a letter from Deluxe chief operating officer Warren Stein.

Stein’s letter said in part: “I would like to thank all of our employees for their incredible contribution to the success of Deluxe, their dedication to meeting the needs of our many customers and their loyalty in recent years as the business declined. Our employees have been the key to all of our successes as a film processing business.

“While emotionally attached to our 100 year legacy with film, we are firmly focused on the future of Deluxe. In this historic time in our industry, we wanted to thank our customers for their business and for their trust. We look forward to servicing their needs in the entertainment media marketplace for the next hundred years and beyond!”

The Deluxe lab in Hollywood does processing, but most of its business is release printing. Deluxe’s New York location will handle its remaining negative processing customers. Its Barcelona lab can strike release prints, with capacity of around 40 per day.

“We have been anticipating, like much of the industry has, the dramatic dropoff in volume of release prints to theaters,” said Feigin. “It has diminished greatly and in concert the demand for digital post and digital distribution have increased greatly.” That has been evident since summer 2011, when Deluxe and its ancient rival Technicolor struck a deal to unite for film printing. Even then, the business wasn’t big enough to compete over.

Directors and cinematographers who prefer to shoot 35mm film can continue to get processing at Deluxe New York or from  Fotokem.

The shift to digital projection has nearly eliminated film prints, and the Weinstein Co. and Paramount say they are moving to end film print distribution altogether.

Some directors and d.p.’s prefer 35mm for shooting. Christopher Nolan took to the stage at the Scientific and Technical Academy Awards to say film “still represents the gold standard” for filmmaking technology.

The essential infrastructure for production with film, however, is withering. Only Kodak still manufactures 35mm motion picture stock. As the amount of stock purchased per year by the industry dwindles, the price per foot is likely to increase. As the number of labs also dwindles, lab services are likely to become dearer and slower. At some point, film will simply become un-economical, no matter how much Nolan and other champions of the photochemical medium prefer it.

Nolan spoke at the Sci-Techs to present an Oscar statuette honoring all the film lab employees who have served the industry for a century. The award was understood as the industry’s valedictory to celluloid. With the demise of Deluxe’s lab, the film era is fading ever-faster into history.

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