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It's official: Film is on life support. Sure, Kodak and Fuji still make the stuff for purists and technophobes. But the death certificate is all but signed.
So how do I know this? Because Qualex has announced it will shutter its last three overnight film processing labs by the end of March.
I spent a good chunk of my working life at Qualex. Back in the heady 90's, we were Kodak's cash machine. In the Marlboro (MA) lab, we sometimes processed more than 45,000 rolls of film in a single night. And a few labs did an even higher volume.
At the height of the film craze, Kodak owned more than 50 Qualex and Kodak Processing Labs across the US and Canada. Now, barely a decade later, the last three labs are closing for lack of business. A handful of employees will remain at the Durham, NC headquarters to handle Qualex's event business. But that's it.
Of course, the specialty labs - such as Dwayne's Photo - are still out there. And there are plenty of one-hour labs, too. But the handwriting's on the wall. These days, an awful lot of one-hour lab technicians are spending more time at the register than they are processing film.