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Do They Still Use Film Reels in Cinemas?

By Elaine Elliott

For over fifty years, theaters were accustomed to switching out film reels and having a short intermission halfway through a movie. This meant viewers had a chance to take a break and concessions stands made more money from snack sales.

But now in the digital age of film, things look a little different at the cinema.
Digital movies don’t need to change film reels which means there are no time constraints or intermissions for movies. In fact, movies have gotten much longer due to this progression in film technology. In 1992, the highest grossing film was 90 minutes (Aladdin). In 2012, the highest grossing film was 143 minutes (The Avengers).


Digital movies took over movie theaters ever since digital projectors became commonplace. Digital projectors replaced film projectors in cinemas because it was easier to edit films and transfer files (no need to mail bulky film reels every time a cinema wanted to show your film).


This trend started in 1991 with the advancement of digital audio. By 1998, the horror film The Last Broadcast was the first full-length movie to be filmed, edited, and transferred digitally.


By 2005, more digital film systems started to roll out in Europe and China causing analog film reels to fade out. Thousands of screens worldwide were converted from reel to digital. By the end of 2017, it’s presumed that 98% of the world’s cinema screens were digital.


There are rare exceptions when directors such as Quentin Tarantino shoot films in 70 or 35 mm. His latest movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood even released in film form across selected theaters in the US and Canada. But otherwise, it seems the age of analog film is over and the convenience of theater intermissions have vanished as well.


Film may have disappeared from cinemas, but do you still have analog media tucked away in storage? Make sure to digitize your film with Southtree today to ensure your memories stay safe forever.

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