Have you seen _Villa Rides_ with Yul Brynner? There is a scene in there
in which Pancho Villa's army receives their first machine gun, and one
soldier loads it and begins firing without putting it into the base. He
is unable to control it or stop it and bullets go flying in all directions.
Kodak's management is a lot like that, and it has been for the past fifty
years or so. They have not managed to kill themselves yet, but it's been
only a matter of time.
Kodak did most of the fundamental research into digital imaging, and they
held most of the patents. But they never actually introduced products
until years after everyone else, because management could not see beyond
the next quarter and did not want to invest into the long term. Then Kodak
sold those patents at a fraction of their real value, again because they saw
short term profit.
Kodak's current CEO knows about printers, he doesn't know a damn thing about
film, and to be honest Kodak hasn't really understood the film market for the
past few decades. Every major decision they have made has turned out to be
In the early 1980s, Kodak shut down all of the smaller film production alleys
with the expectation that they would not ever need to do smaller production
runs. They kept only the newer alleys that are optimized for very large
jumbo rolls and very long production jobs.
Consequently, as the market has shrunk, Kodak has been unable to keep any
of the smaller-demand films in the catalogue. Stuff like the RAR films,
the Hawkeye Surveillance Films, and other stocks that have a small dedicated
market have all gone away and _that_ has accelerated the move of many of
the scientific and industrial imaging people to digital systems because they
had no alternative.
At the same time, smaller operations like Orwo, Ilford, and Kentmere with
smaller lines are able to make a profit on the smaller production runs which
are the order of the day today. Kentmere is using these little nine-inch
jumbos which would fit inside the core of one of the big Kodak ones.
For two years I tried to get Kodachrome.... our local camera store was unable
to get Kodak to ship them the stuff and it seemed like B&H was the only place
in the country that could get it. Then Kodak discontinued it because of the
low demand... but if you don't ship it to customers, they aren't going to be
Kodak's film operation today basically hinges on motion picture print stocks.
They make a lot of print stock, much of which is going into the third world,
and the large scale print stock production is keeping the alleys open for
them to be able to make smaller demand stocks like camera films. With the
current move to digital presentation, demand for those print stocks is going
to be going away.
The only hope for Kodak's film operation is for Kodak to split it off and
get some people who actually understand film and the film market to run it.
It's going to take some capital investment too... some of those long alleys
are going to have to be split up and transformed into facilities more conducive
to small production runs. They are going to have to figure out how to make
film in small runs and actually get that film to customers.
So, I am hoping this is a good thing. If not, well, Fuji is making record
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