The mid-term future of 35mm and 16mm film processing in the UK looks to have been secured in an eleventh hour deal struck between Deluxe-owned Company3 and London film lab iDailies.

The move comes in the wake of the pending closure of Technicolor’s processing facility at Pinewood Studios to which Deluxe had sub-contracted its 35mm/16mm color negative processing business since summer 2011.

The withdrawal of that lab threatened to leave the UK without significant film processing capacity.

The new deal enables 35mm projects currently in production or in pre-production in the UK, including Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella for Disney, to continue to be serviced in the country.

The deal is understood to be local to the UK and does not represent a reversal of the company’s wider policy of shuttering uneconomical labs worldwide.

“The agreement allows Co3 to continue to provide a full 35mm/16mm film service. There is a huge appetite among local clients and those overseas to continue shooting on film,” said Patrick Malone, Director of Digital Film Services at Company3 London.

It’s one thing to base decisions on the global needs of a huge corporation and another in identifying the needs of clients which we see on a daily basis,” he added.

“Despite the understandable and inevitable fact that a huge lab can’t be sustained in this day and age, there is still a very real need to support those filmmakers choosing to shoot film.”

Directors UK victory

The initiative represents a victory for campaigning group Directors UK, whose members include Ken Loach, Stephen Frears, Lynne Ramsey and Paul Greengrass.

It had lobbied Deluxe, Technicolor and studios including Warner Bros. into maintaining a substantive 35mm processing presence on home soil.

Directors UK Film chair Iain Softley said: “There is a huge desire from all quarters of the industry to sustain film processing and manufacture. Our campaign is evolving and certainly will push forward.”

He added: “We are trying to make sure that all parties are aware of the filmmaker’s strong desire to continue working on film in the medium to short term. 

“This is not a fringe issue but one that is central to the fatality of the film business in this country.”

iDailies boost

The Ealing, West London based-iDailies will increase capacity from 40,000ft to 100,000ft with the addition of a new chemical bath. It will also develop black and white developing, answer prints, soundtracks and film deliverables in conjunction with Company3.

Malone said Company3 has four features and one 16mm TV project currently shooting film.

On average the UK would see about 25-30,000 ft processed a night throughout the year so the entire daily output could be done on one processing machine,” said John Tadros, co-founder, iDailies.

“Because the nature of filmmaking goes in peaks and troughs, realistically we need at least two machines to cater for periods of demand up to 100,000ft a night.”

Film “not dead”

Deluxe London, of which CO3 is a part, houses four telecine machines and two Arri scanners. Warner Bros. Anna Karenina and Universal’s Les Miserables are among recent 35mm projects transferred there.

It’s likely that those filmmakers reluctant to switch to digital will revert back to 35mm if they made aware of an opportunity to do just that,” said Malone.

“A lot of people have the wrong impression that film is dead. It clearly is not. Filmmakers do not have to turn away from film.”

He added: “Digital is just as valid as shooting media is a subjective choice. We don’t think people should be forced down one route or another.”

The only other 35mm laboratory of note in the UK is Bucks Labs, a member of Kodak’s IMAGECARE Program.

Deluxe is a subsidiary of investor Ronald Perelman’s MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings.

Technicolor announced its decision to shutter the Pinewood lab in March.