Kodak kills Kodachrome film after 74 years

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Kodachrome, the film brand touted as the stuff of memories, is about to become a memory itself as Eastman Kodak stops production due to overwhelming competition from digital cameras.

Eastman Kodak Co said it will retire Kodachrome color film this year, ending its 74-year run after a dramatic decline in sales.

“The majority of today’s photographers have voiced their preference to capture images with newer technology -- both film and digital,” said Mary Jane Hellyar, president of Kodak`s Film, Photofinishing and Entertainment Group.

Kodachrome was once the film of choice for many baby boomers’ family slide shows and gained such iconic status that it was celebrated in the mid-1970s with a song of the same name by Paul Simon, with the catch-phrase: “Mama don’t take my Kodachrome away.”

The film’s durability and ability to capture rich, vibrant colors also made it a favorite among professional photographers like Steve McCurry, known for his portrait of an Afghan girl with green eyes for the cover of the National Geographic Magazine in 1985.

But it is a complex film to manufacture and requires a complicated process to develop, and today there is only one lab left in the country that processes the film.

It also faced competition from Japanese rival Fuji Film.

In the end, Kodachrome accounted for less than 1 percent of the company’s total sales of still-picture films, the company said.

Even McCurry has now moved onto digital and other film including Kodak’s Ektachrome.

“In fact, when I returned to shoot the `Afghan Girl` 17 years later, I used Kodak Professional Ektachrome Film E100VS to create that image, rather than Kodachrome film as with the original,” he said in a statement.

Underscoring the decline of film, the company that popularized consumer photography more than 100 years ago said 70 percent of its revenue today is from consumer and commercial digital businesses.

Reporting by Ritsuko Ando and David Lawsky, Editing by Maureen Bavdek, Dave Zimmerman