Very few motion pictures are shot on film anymore. Based on my casual survey of movies released in 2014 and (so far) 2015, only about 18% of all the pictures that could have been shot on film were shot digitally.
I did my first such survey back in November, 2012. That time around, film and digital came in at a dead heat. Discounting animated films, documentaries, fake documentaries, and anything shot in 3D, I counted 14 films shot digitally and 13 shot on film.
Why did I discount animated films, documentaries, fake documentaries, and anything shot in 3D? Because it’s pretty much unthinkable to shoot such pictures on film anymore. I only wanted to count pictures that could reasonably have been shot on film.
I did it again in December, 2013. The trend was definitely towards digital, but not overwhelmingly so. That time, I found ten movies shot on film, and 15 shot digitally.
I expected the trend to continue, but I didn’t expect physical film to drop off a cliff. Out of 33 films I surveyed, only six of them were shot through a photo-chemical process.
Here’s how I did it:
I started with IMDb’s Showtimes & Tickets page, which lists all of the movies currently showing. I clicked on each one, found the "full technical specs" page, and noted how it was shot. Because of the long wait since my last survey, I supplemented the list with other 2014 films that I’ve reviewed.
I disqualified various films for these reasons:
- They were animated, 3D, documentaries, or mock-documentaries.
- The listed year of release was prior to 2014
- IMBd did not have sufficient technical information
Whether we like it or not, this trend is inevitable. Digital is cheaper, easier to work with, and probably better for the environment. Film in the camera still results in a better-looking image–even with digital projection–but the line between them is thin and getting thinner. For most movies, it doesn’t really make a difference.
I’m still deeply concerned about preservation and archiving with digital. Due to shrinking demand, the use of film for these purposes may become economically impossible.
A great many filmmakers will have to adjust. But John Ford adjusted to sound, talking, three-strip Technicolor, color film, magnetic audio recording, standard widescreen, Panavision, stereo sound, and three different large-size formats. Today’s directors can adjust, as well.