How Many Films are Still Shot on Film: The 2017 Edition

How many theatrical motion pictures are still shot on film? Judging by my annual survey, less and less of them. Out of 23 narrative feature films currently screening in Bay Area theaters, only three were shot entirely on film. 15 were shot digitally – almost all with Ari Alexa cameras. An additional five were shot with a combination of film and digital.

The number of these combination films surprised me. There was only one in last year’s survey. I can only guess why filmmakers would choose to shoot some scenes on film and others digitally. Perhaps some scenes needed a smaller, lighter camera. Or maybe budgetary problems forced filmmakers to give up on 35mm mid-shoot. Without considerable research, I have no way of knowing if any particular movie was shot mostly on film or digitally.

Blade Runner 2049, shot digitally

If I were to redefine the shot-on-film column to include those partially shot on film, they would make up a little more than a third of the movies surveyed (eight out of 23). That would relatively match previous surveys.

I don’t have any strong convictions about what technologies a filmmaker should choose. I can’t really say that one looks better than the other anymore – although there’s something very special about movies shot in large film formats such as 65mm. Shooting digitally is cheaper and more practical, but some filmmakers prefer the tools they know.

The Other Side of Hope, shot on film

Here’s how I surveyed the films:

I started with the Internet Movie Database’s list of films screening in my area. I disqualified animated films and documentaries, because shooting them on film seems almost absurd these days. I also disqualified films dated any year except 2017.

That left me with 31 movies. For each qualified film, I checked the movie’s IMDB Technical Specs page for the information I needed. But eight of those pages lacked any useful information about cameras or formats. Without considerable research, I had no way of knowing how those movies were shot. And that’s how I ended up with only 26 films in the survey.

Murder on the Orient Express, shot both digitally and on 65mm film

Here’s the list, including films without sufficient information.

Title Digital Film Both No info
All the Money in the World x
Blade Runner 2049 x
Bleeding Steel x
Call Me by Your Name x
Crooked House x
Daddy’s Home 2 x
Darkest Hour x
Downsizing x
Father Figures x
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool x
God’s Own Country x
Goodbye Christopher Robin x
I, Tonya x
In the Fade x
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle x
Jungle x
Justice League x
Lady Bird x
Molly’s Game x
Murder on the Orient Express x
Phantom Thread x
Pitch Perfect 3 x
Star Wars: The Last Jedi x
The Disaster Artist x
The Florida Project x
The Greatest Showman x
The Man Who Invented Christmas x
The Other Side of Hope x
The Shape of Water x
The Square x
Thor: Ragnarok x
15 3 5 8