As celluloid biz slips, DuArt outfits for bits

Lab ends film legacy, converts to all digital

Nearly nine months ago, Gotham lab DuArt ended the film services it had offered to the biz since 1922. Lab equipment was sold off to buyers from India to Boston.

Like many craftspeople and companies facing the digital revolution, it could either reinvent itself or get out of the business.

It’s still here.

“The DuArt footprint is in major transition,” says Joe Monge, vice president of operations. The company’s midtown Manhattan HQ is becoming a digital post hub, with four of its 12 floors already converted to editing and audio suites, digital intermediate and color-grading.

That the end of film processing and printing, which at its peak employed 200 people dedicated to lab and telecine operations, “refocused us on what we have to do to survive,” Monge says.

Post is by no means new at DuArt, Monge says, though he adds the company has never been heavily invested in editorial. Still, some customers calling to console the principals about the end of its film legacy were surprised to discover DuArt’s digital side.

Monge cites a difference between New York’s celluloid and digital production scene as a key reason for the need to refocus the company. In the high-volume-or-bust world of lab processing and printing, with going rates stuck around 11¢ and 22¢ per foot, respectively, the pie was shrinking even as new competitors like Deluxe moved into the territory, taking a bite of DuArt’s business. In contrast, with HD production exploding and even commercial producers abandoning film, the digital pie is growing.

And DuArt’s now a client of those labs it used to compete with.

“It’s weird to call up Technicolor and Deluxe now,” Monge says, “but we’re very civil after years of being very competitive.”