Paramount ends its film era, embraces digital

Paramount has become the first major Hollywood film studio to drop 35mm film in favor of going all-digital with its productions. After more than a century of film, this signals that America’s film giants are moving away from the old and finally embracing the new.

The Oscar-nominated film The Wolf of Wall Street was Paramount’s first digital-only release, distributed only in digital format. Interestingly, the last movie the film studio released to 35mm was Anchroman 2: The Legend Continues.

The sign of the times may be a harbinger for a faster phaseout of film than most would expect. It’s likely that most other major studios, who are nearly all eschewing 35mm already, will also have dumped film and gone all-digital by the end of 2014. Internationally, however, this is not so much the case. Studios including Paramount are still printing film, usually from digital originals, for international distribution.

Further, about eight percent of U.S. theater screens, mostly small independents, have not gone digital and still show films in cell format. These theaters largely show foreign and indie releases rather than major studio films, however.

Digital distribution has many advantages for the studio. It’s cheaper to process and edit, far cheaper to distribute (films are sent via satellite connection rather than physically or on a small disc rather than a $2,000 print), and are of higher resolution and quality. Options like three-dimensional vs 2D (often on the same disc) are possible as well, further saving costs.

Although Paramount was first, many expected 20th Century Fox or Lions Gate to take that honor, though Disney wasn’t far behind either. So Paramount taking the lead was a surprise, but it was a horse race regardless.

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