Film May Be Mostly Gone in the US by the End of the Decade

The AP published an article yesterday titled “How Much Longer Can Photographic Film Hold On?” that gives a pretty grim outlook for the future of film. About a decade ago, Americans were purchasing close to 1 billion rolls of film and 19.7 million film cameras every year. This year, only about 20 million rolls will be sold and film camera sales may fall below 100,000.

For InfoTrends imaging analyst Ed Lee, film’s fade-out is moving sharply into focus: “If I extrapolate the trend for film sales and retirements of film cameras, it looks like film will be mostly gone in the U.S. by the end of the decade.”

As high schools and colleges find the rising costs of analog photography prohibitive, they’re transitioning to a completely digital curriculum and shutting down their darkrooms, further reducing the demand for film. Film lovers, enjoy it while it lasts!

How Much Longer Can Photographic Film Hold On? [NPR]

Image credit: Death of Film by blue_quartz

  • Jeremy Bryner

    Figured as much…film just has that look…everyone wants the cheaper route, although digital is alot better in other aspects

  • Elias

    I sure hope film is still available somehow, somewhere. I’m completely hooked on my Mamiya 645, and I’d hate to give it up.

  • Aaron Stidwell

    As a digital and film shooter, I knew it was coming. That still gives us 8 1/2 more years of amazing pictures though.

  • Develop Film

    Kodak makes money doing two things, inkjets and film. Ask them their plans for one of their most profitable divisions. 

  • bri

    it would seem to me that if one company continued to make film, they would have 20 million customers. that seems like a pretty good business to me!?

  • Gert Huygaerts

    Polaroid was “dead” too…  until the impossible project came up! :-)  Somehow somewhere film WILL survive…  quite sure of that!

  • Daniel Markham

    The Polaroid example is a good one. I doubt film will die completely, it will just become more and more niche (so a bad big business but a quite good small business)… maybe someone will buy up the machinery to make the film from Kodak in a few years (feels down back of sofa for change).

  • Ed Wenn

    Yep, film ain’t going anywhere. It’ll get quieter for sure, but die out? Hah! Show me one thing that can replace it. Seriously.

  • Jamato8

    For my traveling work digital just works out better but I love film and am sad to think the option will not be around. 

    LPs came back and now there is talk of the demise of the CD. And so it goes. 

  • Jamato8

    For my traveling work digital just works out better but I love film and am sad to think the option will not be around. 

    LPs came back and now there is talk of the demise of the CD. And so it goes. 

  • Anonymous

    You keep telling yourself that.

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  • kombizz

    I believe that film NEVER dies, no matter what.

  • bostonpop

    … film may be “mostly gone” by the end of the decade, but it will not die, just like tapes, CDs and MP3s did not kill the Vinyl.

  • J.R.

    I’m in the market for my first Medium Format film camera. Does anyone have one cheap to sell me?

  • Boris Pophristov

    Let me tell you my story. My first date with photography was in 2006 with a shiny high-end compact digital camera. I became addicted and in 2008 I got a DSLR with a couple of lenses. Things were going well for me but there was something wrong. I was spending too much time in front of the computer screen and I lacked discipline. The abilities of editing software had always temped me to go too far, many times missing the magic of photography but I didn’t learn to ignore that artificial touch in my images. Then out of curiosity, I got a 35 mm SLR film camera. Quite soon after that I fell madly in love with film and in the beginning of this year I bought a medium format film camera. To be honest, today I use my DSLR only for light metering.

    This isn’t just my story. More and more photographers turn back or better say forward to analogue photography. So, film will hold!

  • Cineski

    As a film shooter who started shooting digital 5 years ago I spent the past 5 years of my life feeling trapped.  A photographer should not be stuck in front of their computer doing vast amounts of post production.  The beginning of this year I started shooting film again and suddenly my creative juices are running rampant.  That’s not saying digital is bad in any way.  They’re both just far too different to be compared to each other.  Seeing an image recorded where the light reflecting off the face actually imprints itself on the film rather than being converted to 1’s and 0’s just speaks volumes to the romance of film.  There are more people starting to shoot film again and Kodak’s recent release of brand new (and stellar) films will keep film alive for longer than this story alludes to.

  • Evanprogers

    This is exactly my story.  Leaving digital for more film is a gradual change for me.  Digital fits my workflow for the commercial work I do in advertising, but for portrait work and my own self-produced work I prefer film. It requires discipline, thoughtfulness, and frees me up to be focusing in on my next picture instead of the last picture I just took.

  • Richard Ford

    What about hollywood?  They aren’t about to drop film and it’s much greater dynamic range and look.  As long as holly wood keeps binging on film fuji and kodak will make it.  Not to mention the smaller firms like Maco and Ilford.

    People still buy manual cars.  Still use cruise liners and god forbid – still walk about as well.  One can still buy obscure alternative process chemicals, plates and film.  The normal basket of modern and highly advanced films will be about for a lot longer than the end of the decade.

  • Joedurham

    Film is manufactured in large lots on huge machines; that is what keeps it priced low.  If the volume goes away, the cost to make the film will continue to go up and it will price itself out of the market.  Are all of you film lovers willing to spend five or ten times the money for the film?  If not, it will die.

    There is also the problem of the difficulty in hitting the specs on low production runs.  That is what finally killed Kodakchrome.

  • Rachel

    The other aspect of Film photography is the Darkroom Photography.  Doing darkroom photography is so awesome.  You learn alot about chemicals, measurements, color theory, contrast, and many others.  It actually stimulates your mind, thus keeping your mind sharp at all times, not to mention the physical exercise you get from moving around.  Also, because it is dark you rely a lot on your sense of touch, and your sense of sight is more enhanced.  I think overall it makes you a better person, because you’re more in touched and in tuned with the earth.

    I hope that people should realize that it’s not good for everything to be automated, or over reliance on technology.  I think there should be a balance between analog like film, tape recorders, etc., and digital technology such as computers, digital cameras, etc.

  • Jeramy

    35mm film has been a goner in my city for 2 years now. There are three places that will “send” your photos away to be developed. May take up to two weeks per batch. However medium format film will continue to the be cheapest alternative to a 40,000$ camera for at least another 10 years.

  • Anand

    Well used both, Digital goes cheap and cheaper, Just like LPs and Spools were costly and then the music and movie makers found digital to be more profitable and we fell for it. After taking a lot of photos at home , school, college and all. All those snaps remain well preserved, Digitals are what they are pictures with some sort of enhanced unnatural colour , But cheap. The as we know it is a manufacturer’s world. They and their cronies who write those glossy articles decide , what we want. Sorry to say, we have all mortgaged thought to big companies and their wishes