The beloved company that brought photography to the masses with the preloaded Brownie Camera has sold most of its film and digital imaging business and will stop producing the acetate film base.
The Death of Kodak Film?
In another blow to film junkies everywhere; Kodak has officially stopped production of acetate film base, one of the key components used to create modern camera film.
Over the last 17 months of the bankruptcy, Kodak has been completely deconstructed and reformed. In some ways, that makes film enthusiasts that still stockpile T-Max film in their fridge (butter drawer in my case) want to cry.
In a statement, Eastman Kodak Co. spokesman Christopher Veronda said :
“[the company has] an inventory of years of acetate base, and are looking at options for external supply beyond that. We of course use a variety of internal and external suppliers for the various components in our films, and this is one of those components. We have said that our strategy is to align our costs with the continuing decline of film. Given that we were able to stockpile years of inventory, it’s obvious that the capacity to manufacture acetate film base had gotten way ahead of current and future requirements.”
Kodak promised that it will continue to make the polyester film base, which is used in most of the billions of feet of commercial film that is generates each year.
Swan Song or New Beginning?
Eastman Kodak Co. has been circling the drain for a while. The digital camera business is gone, so is the desktop inkjet printer business (Kodak is still making ink cartages for the printer remnants). Paper production in England and Colorado are gone. Well, at least they don’t belong to Kodak any longer.
Despite serious opposition from Ricoh Co., Nikon Corp., Shutterfly Inc. and Fujifilm Corp., on June 20th, the United States Bankruptcy Court approved the proposed deal that permitted Kodak to sell its personalized imaging (think film) and document imaging (scanners, etc.) businesses to the underfunded United Kingdom Pension Plan. This sale settled the $2.8 billion claim made by the represented Kodak retirees. That, my friend, is a lot of retirees!
The sale wipes the slate clean and also provides Kodak with $650 million on top of the $2.8 write-off; money it desperately needs to help pay off some of its debts incurred during this entire process.
So What Now? Kodak’s Next Steps
The U.K. Pension Plan is not picking up the film manufacturing operations, however, it is taking over the paper manufacturing operations in England and Colorado. Kodak will continue to manufacture and supply consumer and professional films, however it will be to the Pension Plan. The goal of the Plan is to use proceeds from these businesses to continue to fund the pensions of former employees.
But Kodak is not completely gone. Eastman Kodak Co. announced on Thursday a $895 million financing deal with JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp and Barclays Plc. The three Wall Street giants will jointly secure a loan package of $695 million. The three banks will also arrange a revolving credit line of $200 million. This will bring Kodak $895 million to utilize for paying back debt incurred during the bankruptcy process as well as future operations, which may include the restart of its commercial imaging business.
What This Means for Photographers
Film is not just for hipsters; it is still used in major Hollywood film productions and is the preferred medium for many fine artists, as well as photography students. True – digital has taken over much of the user base, however if a company like Kodak – the reigning icon among film – can fail in the midst of financial mishandling and economic uncertainty, any company can. As artists and businesses continue to trudge forward, it is important to remember our roots. Kodak gave us that. It was the first time photography was taken out of the hands of the privileged and bourgeoisie, and placed into the hands of the every day person. And for that very reason, I’m dusting off some film and going to log some time in the darkroom.
Kodak – here is hoping to you survive despite the odds.
Until Next Time . . .
Stay Inspired ~ Jules