National Film Festival for Talented Youth | Seattle Youth Film Festival | Student Film Festival


The Fight for Film

Industry News

Written by Amy Olson, NFFTY Intern

Will The Fight for 35mm Film Have a Happy Ending After All?

There has been a sudden turn of events in the battle between Digital and 35mm film! Well, at least an attempt towards a turn of events. Thirty-five mm film just might have a Cinderella story after all if Christopher Nolan has anything to say about it.

It looked to be all over for 35 mm film after its long run of 120 years. The old tradition of cinema film being distributed and stored on rolls of celluloid has been said to become completely extinct by 2015, with the last celluloid cinemas expected to “shut up shop.” This huge change in the world of cinema was largely due to James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar, which could only be shown via digital projectors and thus theatres everywhere began to make the switch; it seemed as if 35mm became obsolete overnight.

But the expected 2012 summer blockbuster, The Dark Knight Rises, is pushing the hat against this dictating wave of new cinema. With the new Batman movie shot on 35mm film & real IMAX 70mm film in a time of everything gone Digital, director Christopher Nolan believes it can make a comeback, but only if believers of it put up a good fight.

After a private screening of the first six minutes of The Dark Knight Rises in Universal City Walk’s IMAX Theater, Christopher Nolan spoke to his peers about why this treasured way of film should not become obsolete. His audience? Only some of the most prominent filmmakers in all of Hollywood! The guest list for the screening included Edgar Wright, Michael Bay, Bryan Singer, Jon Favreau, Eli Roth, Duncan Jones, and Stephen Daldry. “(Nolan) warned, 35mm will be stamped out by the studios unless people — people like them — insist otherwise.” – (LA weekly) “The danger comes from filmmakers not asserting their right to choose that format…If they stop exercising that choice, it will go away. I tell people, ‘Look, digital isn’t going away.’” – (Christopher Nolan)

But with cost being a major factor, it is going to be a tough battle for believers like Nolan. “It costs about $1,500 to print one copy of a movie on 35 mm film and ship it to theaters in its heavy metal canister…by comparison, putting out a digital copy costs a mere $150.” – (LA Weekly)

Not only is cost pushing Digital, but the fact that film can be converted to many digital formats is also a weighing factor. Though believers of the continuation of film based motion pictures are putting up a good fight, it will be interesting to see if they can stand against the strength of new age of Digital cinema.

For more information you can follow @save35mm on twitter or visit

One thought on “The Fight for Film

  1. Seriously though, with the exception of the Alexa, nothing has really come close to the range and quality that film has. But both digital and film have their place and some movies are “Film movies” and some movies are “digital movies” but that should be up to the director and cinematographer to decide, not the studios. I just saw “The Tree of Life” again last night and I truly cannot imagine that film on digital. On film, you’re able to see from the darkest of darks to the brightest of brights, well at the same time maintaining those deep, rich blacks and pure whites. That’s my argument anyway

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *