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And the hits keep coming.

The Hollywood Reporter says the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may move the Oscars after the 2013 show.  The Academy Awards have been held at the Kodak Theatre since 2002. The lease with the CIM Group, which owns the theater, has an out clause after ten years. The Academy will try to negotiate a better lease.

Some of this has to do with the financial picture of Kodak.  Excerpt:

It was a different situation in July 2000 when Kodak acquired naming rights to the 3,401 seat theater in the then-new Hollywood & Highland complex on Hollywood Blvd. Kodak, then still a global leader in imaging, agreed to pay $75 million over 20 years to have its name on the theater. It has been making $4 million annual payments ever since.

But if Kodak does not, or cannot, continue as the name sponsor on the theater, the CIM Group will likely seek to sell the naming rights to another business. Having the Oscars would be a huge calling card in such a negotiation, as it guarantees global brand exposure. That is the leverage the Academy believes gives it muscle in re-negotiating its contract.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the CIM Group said Kodak is current on its payments.

Links of the day:

- I blogged earlier this week about Rochester’s lame New Year’s Eve party that ends at 10 p.m. And features bouncy houses, face-painting and kazoos.

Apparently, Rochester is not alone in ending the festivities well before midnight. The Wall Street Journal reported on the proliferation on early events around the country:

Even the most social people find it more convenient to get a leg up on the new year. At Boston’s First Night, an annual New Year’s arts-and-cultural celebration that attracts a million, organizers say attendance for the events that happen earlier in the day is as high as those that happen closer to midnight.

Other towns, zoos and amusement parks have created an even earlier alternative New Year celebration, dubbed “Noon Year’s Eve,” with countdowns and ball drops that happen when the sun is high in the sky.

I still think it would be nice to celebrate the new year when the new year arrives. That would not preclude earlier events for those who want to go to bed early.

- Americans have been going crazy over the success of Finnish schools. Their teachers are highly regarded, well paid and well trained. But there’s something we conspicuously leave out when describing Finland’s education system, The Atlantic reports:

“…there are no private schools in Finland.”

This notion may seem difficult for an American to digest, but it’s true. Only a small number of independent schools exist in Finland, and even they are all publicly financed. None is allowed to charge tuition fees. There are no private universities, either. This means that practically every person in Finland attends public school, whether for pre-K or a Ph.D.

<snip>

The problem facing education in America isn’t the ethnic diversity of the population but the economic inequality of society, and this is precisely the problem that Finnish education reform addressed. More equity at home might just be what America needs to be more competitive abroad.

- We’ve heard of public health initiatives giving free syringes to drug addicts. But crack pipes? Vancouver is doing it.

Remember during the fast ferry days when people said Canadians would never want to come to Rochester?

They’re flocking in droves to Buffalo and Syracuse – to spend money.

Sales tax receipts in Erie and Niagara counties are surging. Local officials credit Canadians. From the Buffalo News:

So what’s fueling the growth?

“There’s a one-word answer I can give you right now: Canadians,” said Gary D. Keith, an economist with M&T Bank. “They have been helping our retail sector significantly throughout 2011, and, in fact, the nice growth we’re seeing in Erie County has been topped by what’s happening in Niagara County.”

The Syracuse Post Standard reports Canadians are coming by the busload to Carousel Center, Wegmans and the Waterloo Premium Outlets:

The two currencies are about par right now. A big reason Canadian shoppers are coming to the U.S., and Syracuse in particular, is for the wide variety of stores and variety of goods they cannot purchase in Canada. And to escape goods and services taxes and other sales taxes, which are, they say, much higher in their homeland.

Rochester may not be as convenient as Syracuse and Buffalo, but I’d be willing to bet we’re getting at least some of that traffic. We have the unique attractions of The Strong and George Eastman House, but the shopping opportunities are no different. Maybe it’s time to figure out another kind of attraction to capture the Canadians!

More Links of the Day:

The third Kodak director has resigned in a week, Reuters reports. Laura Tyson is a professor and White House advisor. Excerpt:

Tyson, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, is a professor at the Walter A. Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.
She has also served as a member of President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board and in the 1990s advised the Clinton administration on the economy.

Kodak shares closed at 65 cents today. It’s high in 2011 was $5.85.

- The Rochester Business Journal reports 2012 will be a decisive year for Kodak. Excerpt:

For Rochester, much is at stake. Although Kodak’s local employment has plunged roughly 88 percent-or more than 53,000 jobs-since it peaked in the early 1980s, some 7,000 residents still earn a living there. And thousands of Kodak retirees also have much on the line.

- In Colorado, Kodak leveled four buildings on its Windsor campus, the Windsor Beacon reports. Two hundred workers remain at the campus.

- City Newspaper might have the line of the day in a blog post questioning Bob Duffy’s effectiveness as mayor:

I think Duffy’s belief in his own core goodness cast a weird spell on the city.

I believe the jury is still out on his tenure. Midtown will end up being his legacy and we don’t know how that’s going to turn out.

- A Rochester woman was interviewed for a story in the Washington Post about the “White Girl Problems” Twitter hashtag, which is coming out in book form. Excerpt:

A whole online community has sprung up to vent. Now there’s @JewBoyProblems, @PostGradProblems and @HipsterProblems, to name a few. Hyperion is releasing a book next month —“White Girl Problems” — and there have been talks with television executives about developing a series.

It has been a hit with out-of-work college graduates. Stephanie Williams, 24, of Rochester, N.Y., recently left her job at a public relations firm and moved back in with her parents. She says it’s comforting to connect with others on Twitter who share her problems adjusting to postgraduate life.

“This is possibly the first time where I don’t feel like I have control over the direction of my life,” Williams said. “And I’m going through this crisis on Twitter with other people.”

Locally, a “Pittsford Problems” hashtag made the rounds a couple weeks ago.

Links of the Day:

- It’s a good idea to call your cable provider a few times a year to negotiate a better monthly price, reports the Wall Street Journal. The article says the average TV subscriber pays $128 a month for cable, Internet and phone. During the recession, a lot of subscribers bolted. Excerpt:

To stanch the bleeding, some cable companies have begun to quietly offer stripped-down plans to retain viewers. They frequently go unadvertised in many regions and customers might have to hunt for them on providers’ websites to find out exactly what to ask for.

It would be nice if prices and tiers were more transparent. I went to basic cable because I wasn’t watching the premium channels (or much TV, besides news). But Internet jacks up the monthly bill to previous levels.

I believe Apple or some other company will dramatically change how we consume television, in the same manner iTunes changed how we consume music. It’s already happening with online services, but the masses are still tied to the cord.

- Speaking of cable, the cable guy is now better dressed and trained. The New York Times says many have backgrounds in computing and engineering.

- What if your birthday fell on a Tuesday every year? That could happen if this permanent calendar was adopted.

- Remember book-of-the-month clubs? Now there are shoe-of-the-month clubs. Is there a way to sign up for stilettos?

- My “halo over Rochester” post made its way to Buffalo. Do we need downtowns?

- I will be filling in for Bob Lonsberry today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hope you can tune in and call in! 222-1180. The broadcast is also available online at wham1180.com.

Have you ever wondered just how much profit Wegmans earns? We could find out.

Reuters reports Wegmans is fighting a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would force companies with more than 500 shareholders to reveal its earnings. Wegmans is a privately-held company.

Excerpt:

…the older companies say the limit threatens their ability to offer stock-based compensation plans to senior managers.

“As we grow, we don’t have the ability to retain and attract the number of people we’d like because of the restriction of this rule,” said Paul Speranza, vice chairman and general counsel of Wegmans, a grocery chain based in Rochester, New York.

In an interview with Reuters, Speranza said Wegmans is “quite close” to the 500-shareholder limit.

Wegmans is using former congressman Tom Reynolds as its lobbyist.

Wegmans says its 2010 annual sales were $5.6 billion.

Links of the Day:

- The Democrat and Chronicle reports that Assemblyman David Gantt appears to be the “lone driver of the mayoral control train.” No one – not even Lt. Governor Bob Duffy – is rushing in to fight round two of this debate. Excerpt:

 Leaving office a year ago, he said his successor — who was unknown at the time — should support such a change and that he, as lieutenant governor, would work from Albany to get the legislation passed in the Senate.

Meanwhile, Mayor Tom Richards has been silent. He didn’t return calls from the D&C or yours truly yesterday.

Update: Rochester’s Mayor penned an op-ed saying that he does not support mayoral control at this time. Tom Richards has yet to take reporter questions this week. Without Richards’ support, it seems the measure is effectively dead on arrival.

- I frequently get asked how many people are actually sleeping in Washington Square Park. We see the tents, but the place looks like a ghost town. I stopped by yesterday and got the answer.

Brighton came oh-so-close to dissolving the West Brighton Fire Department. The town contracted with the city for fire services, but will keep a small volunteer force in case the city crew is out on assignment. I wonder if this consolidation will be an anomaly or wave of the future.

A number of New York City entrepreneurs have come up with hangover remedies.

A couple nights a week, my friends and I get into an animated discussion of politics, sports or whatever happens to come up. We know what pushes each other’s buttons. There are never any hard feelings, except for the night one of us stormed out after an argument over which song made the Beastie Boys famous (She’s On It on the Krush Groove soundtrack vs. the License to Ill album).

Last night’s debate started with my blog post about New Year’s Eve. I lamented the city’s tradition of having downtown child-centered activities that commence with fireworks at 10 p.m. Some party, right? I said people would come downtown for a full night of festivities if the city gave them a reason.

One of the guys launched into a rant so compelling (and long), I took out my iPad and started taking notes. He does not want me to use his name.

This was directed at me:

You think there’s a halo over all of Rochester. I miss the monorail and Cathay Pagoda, but the city has serious issues.

The suburbs are so great we don’t need to leave. We have everything, they’re the best suburbs in the country.

If you’re my dad, he has no reason to leave Webster. He has fine dining, shopping and Wegmans. You think people are always denigrating the city, but our suburbs are second to none.

You think life would stop in Brighton and Pittsford if downtown died? The city is not the hub for those people. I’m one of them.

I’m not smart enough to have a prescription to fix downtown. It’s sad and it’s a shame, but (the death of downtown) wouldn’t have the impact you think.

We need to focus on the entire area. We have great suburbs and crime is going down. You think I’m so anti-city and I’m not. I just don’t think downtown and the city are as important.

I (shockingly) disagree. Downtown is the center of our civic and cultural life. Fifty thousand people work downtown every day. There are many people who value a vibrant urban environment and lifestyle, even in a medium-sized city. Downtown is an important part of our identity.

The entire city is the core of our community. The concentration of poverty and blight in the city affects all of us in terms of crime, social services, education, economic development, quality of life and the perception of our metro area.

While I agree with my friend that we should think regionally, we should not think about only the good and dismiss the bad. None of us – not even city-centered me – should be isolated.

Update: My anonymous friend wants me to clarify that he was describing a mentality and belief that he does not necessarily share. He was relating his perception of the challenges facing the city. He may be a suburbanite, but he spends a lot of time in the city.

The New York Times reports Chemung County is reaping the benefits of hyrdrofracking without any hydrofracking.

The county, home to Elmira, Horseheads and Big Flats, is on the New York-Pennsylvania border. Drillers in Pennsylvania are streaming to Chemung County for housing, shopping and entertainment.

Last year, Chemung led all New York counties in the growth of sales tax and hotel tax revenue, as well as in the expansion of its tax base, avoiding the property tax increases and economic doldrums faced by local governments elsewhere in the state.

<snip>

Many businesses provide support and technological services for gas fields. One of the biggest, Schlumberger Technologies, is completing a 400,000-square-foot plant in Horseheads that will employ 400 people by next year.

New York State has not decided if it will allow hydrofracking. There are serious concerns about the environmental impact. But this kind of economic impact can also not be ignored.

Wegmans is building a 70,000-square-foot store in Newton, Massachusetts. This is drastically smaller than the prototype store, such as the 140,000-square-foot Pittsford Wegmans.

The Boston Globe reports:

“We want to have most of the things we have in all our stores, but can you have a Market Cafe that seats 300 people and serves chef-driven meals and 700 different types of produce?’’ said Jo Natale, director of media relations at Wegmans. “We haven’t quite figured that out yet.’’

<snip>

The smaller stores that Wegmans and Walmart are building help extend their brands. “If you can have a Wegmans experience in a smaller footprint, people are going to dig that,’’ said Griffin.

The new East Avenue Wegmans can’t really be considered one of the smaller urban stores, at 95,000 square feet. It will be similar to the Calkins Rd. Wegmans, which is 110,000 square feet.

The East Ave. store is the last remaining Wegmans location in the City of Rochester. Wegmans has countered criticism that it abandoned the city by pointing to stores right on the border, including Lyell Ave., Ridge-Culver, and Hudson Ave.

Wouldn’t it be great to see Wegmans figure out an urban model and move back into the city? Perhaps one day downtown can get the critical mass and wealth needed to make this happen.

The Democrat and Chronicle reported today Assemblyman David Gantt would reintroduce his legislation giving Rochester’s mayor control of the school district.

This is not a surprise, as it has already passed the assembly. The bill has powerful allies in Gantt, Assemblyman Joe Morelle, Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy and the business community. But the state senate is a lot trickier, as senators Joe Robach and Jim Alesi have expressed strong reservations.

Meanwhile, a lot has changed in the two years since then-Mayor Duffy campaigned for control of schools.

  • We have a new mayor who may not want the job as badly as his predecessor. Tom Richards  never talks about mayoral control unless prompted and doesn’t do so with any depth. While Richards has expressed support for mayoral control, I find it hard to believe Albany would hand over control of a $700-million-a-year, 32,000-student district to a man who lacks any outward passion for taking the reigns. There’s still time for Richards to show he wants control of the district. So far, he hasn’t laid out any vision.
  • Opposition to mayoral control has grown among area residents. The 2011 Voice of the Voter poll shows 50 percent of respondents oppose and 38 percent support mayoral control. In the 2010 poll, only 30 percent opposed mayoral control.
  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s record on education has been knocked in polls and gains in test scores under his leadership were nearly wiped out.
  • The Rochester City School District is no longer run by mayoral-control-friendly Jean-Claude Brizard.  The district is in a state of relative calm compared to the turmoil of the last few years. Is it time to rock the apple cart as the school board searches for a new leader – one who may already be in the position? Maybe it’s the perfect time, if you want to install the mayor as chief.

More links of note today:

- Two members of the Kodak board who represented KKR’s stake in the company and were supposed to help lead a turnaround resigned today. From the Wall Street Journal:

The men obtained their seats after KKR helped Kodak with a fresh injection of funds needed to weather the recession.

Kodak is again seeking funds as an expensive turnaround burns through its cash. The resignations signal KKR isn’t planning to step in this time.

Messrs. Chen and Clammer are young and tech-focused, the type of directors Kodak needed as it tried to make the transition from an analog film company to one that focused on digital products, people familiar with the matter said.

- The Democrat and Chronicle obtained the police report of Airport Director Susan Walsh’s arrest. Excerpt from article:

…she explained the vehicle was not hers and asked him to help her.

“I asked her what she wanted help with and she looked up and me and said, ‘You know what I mean,’ ” the officer, Michael Brandenburg, wrote in his report. “As she was speaking, I could smell a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from her breath and her speech was mumbled and slurred. I also observed that her eyes were glassy, bloodshot and watery.”

- Rochester has had 29 homicides so far this year. It’s one of the less violent years in the city’s recent history. In the early ’90s we had several years with more than 60 homicides. I crunched some numbers in a 13WHAM News post.

Once again, Rochester has announced its official New Year’s Eve celebration will end at 10 p.m.

That’s ridiculous.

The city describes the festivities as “family-friendly” and “wholesome.” Other cities, however, manage to hold family-friendly events and ring in the new year when the new year actually arrives.

Here’s what is happening at the Riverside Convention Center, according to the city’s press release:

The festivities will kick off with a DJ Dance Party for the whole family featuring Jimmy C’s Music Machine.  Kid-friendly inflatable attractions will include a giant bounce house,  climbing wall, obstacle course, bungee run and giant slide.  The City’s “Recreation on the Move” program will be providing crafts and games.  Visitors will be able to dress up and get their picture taken in an Old Time Photo Booth.  Also featured will be two caricature artists, henna and airbrush tattoo artists, a stilt walker, clowns and a magician.

At 9:50 p.m., the crowd will move outside the front doors of the Convention Center where they will be welcomed by Mayor Richards.  Gary Mervis, founder and chairman of Camp Good Days and Special Times, will lead the crowd in a “KazooFest” just prior to the City’s spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks finale which will close out the evening with an amazing aerial display at 10 p.m.

Sounds like a blast…if you still play with GI Joes and Barbie dolls.

The cities of Saratoga and Syracuse hold self-described family-friendly “First Night” celebrations that include music, activities and midnight fireworks. Buffalo has a midnight ball drop preceded by a concert.

I rang in the new millennium on the Main Street Bridge watching the city’s fireworks display. The streets were filled with people having a great time. People weren’t indoors watching their kids play house inside of a balloon. They didn’t go home at 10 p.m. to watch a ball drop on television.

Come on, Rochester, let’s have a real New Year’s Eve party. I promise we’ll behave ourselves.

Links of the Day:

- “Cash mobs,” an idea started in Buffalo, have taken hold elsewhere, reports the Wall Street Journal. Alerted through social media, people swarm a shop on a set day in an effort to buy local. It would be fun to see someone pick up the ball in Rochester.

- Between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores will close after poor holiday sales.

- Mark Hare’s column in the Democrat and Chronicle says 370 Monroe County managers got raises. He said raises are a rare reward for most workers – and it shouldn’t be that way.

- The Associated Press has named its Top 10 stories of the year. Yahoo! has listed the Top 10 viral photos.

- A fun story in the New York Times goes inside Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s D.C. “sorority house,” where four congresswomen live. Rep. Kathy Hochul once stayed there.

Excerpt:

“I have a friend who used to write for ‘Sex and the City,’ and she wanted to interview us for a sitcom or something,” Ms. Maloney recalled with amusement. “But that is not us and it was not the image that we want to portray.”

<snip>

“It was a fascinating place,” said Ms. Hochul, who slept on a bed in Ms. Maloney’s office on the third floor after starting in Congress last year before eventually finding her own place.

Ms. Hochul disagreed with her former landlady in one respect: “I always felt that we could make a reality show: ‘The Real Congresswomen of D.C.’ It would be a real snapshot.”

Links of the Day:

- Will 2012 be the year of casinos in New York State? Cuomo is pushing it. From the New York Daily News:

“Do I support casino gaming at a New York City location? . . . Yes,” the governor told the Daily News in a year-end chat.

<snip>

He stressed he is not “preselecting” New York City or any other area for possible casinos.

“I’m not excluding any locations at this time,” he said, adding that establishing a casino in a part of the city “certainly can” make sense because the operation would capitalize on the massive population.

“New York City is a real location,” he said. “Albany is a real location. Buffalo is a real location.”

Legalizing non-Indian casinos would require two consecutive votes by the legislature and a referendum. Not an easy task, especially in gridlock-prone New York. Any attempt to expand gaming will surely be met by litigation from anti-gambling groups and Native Americans.- I loved putting this story together about a little girl who stole the hearts of Rural Metro workers. All she wanted was an easy Bake Oven, but she got so much more.

- The Democrat and Chronicle has the story behind the awesome Rochester Made website.

- The Buffalo News had a tearjerker story of a woman whose search for her birth mother ended at a funeral.

- Who owns your Twitter account? A lawsuit prompts some debate and strikes fear in the hearts of journalists.

My father has never gotten over the fact the city tore down the RKO Palace Theater in the 1960s. A couple years ago, he showed me a booklet produced as a memento of the downtown theater.

It is beautiful and heartbreaking to think this was right in our center city:

“The 2916-seat theatre had provisions for every type of stage show. There was a bath for trained seals, a chute for bringing animals into the stage basement and onto the stage, and seven floors of dressing rooms that included a billiard room, kitchen and children’s playroom for the convenience and comfort of performers.”

“On its site will be erected a modern motel-office-theatre complex with twin eighteen story towers. The new 1200-seat theatre will be in the luxury class with the latest projection and sound equipment plus roomy seats that offer patrons “living room comfort.”

Nothing was ever built. It’s a parking lot on Mortimer St.

I was inspired to take out the old booklet when I read about the enormous success of Shea’s in Buffalo.

Enjoy.

Links of the Day:

- A 70-year-old WalMart greeter in Batavia was punched in the face by a customer on Christmas Eve, reports The Batavian.

- A man was mugged in the men’s room at the Eastview Regal theater.

- A blind dog who got lost in San Antonio makes its way home just in time for Christmas.

- An Erie County Sheriff’s deputy who lost his legs in an accident has not lost his spirit.

- The New York Times reports on the Salvation Army’s stance on homosexuality.

- She was dying of AIDS, but wanted one motorcycle ride. A very touching column in the New York Times.

- An astounding 19 percent of young veterans in Monroe County can’t find work.

- There’s a building boom in Wayne County…of apple storage facilities. The climate-controlled rooms “put apples to sleep.”

- The Los Angeles Times reports on the huge numbers of people wrongly jailed because police thought they were someone else.

The New York Times reports “Broadway Hits Gold in Buffalo.”

“The Addams Family” musical packed the house at Shea’s, a 3,000-seat downtown theater, and raked in $1 million a week.

Excerpt:

Like theaters in Cleveland and Sacramento, Shea’s in Buffalo has become important because of its reliable subscribers — 13,100 for each of its six one-week Broadway tours this year. An impressive 85 percent renew annually; the subscriber base insures that 55 percent of seats are bought even before tickets go on general sale.

“The industry has noticed how good it is to play Buffalo,” said Stuart Oken, a lead producer of “The Addams Family,” who pointed out that the show made more money per performance here than in Toronto, Miami or any other city since the tour began in September.

If it’s happening in Buffalo, couldn’t it happen in Rochester?

Rochester clearly supports shows at the Auditorium, but it doesn’t seem to compare to what’s happening at Shea’s. At 2,400 seats, the Auditorium is not as big. The facility’s location and parking are difficult. There aren’t any places to walk to have dinner before or get a drink after a show.

Of course, this is why the Rochester Broadway Theatre League desperately wants a new performing arts center. The league selected Midtown Plaza after the collapse of Renaissance Square. But at $70 million, with half of the funds coming from the public, the mayor is decidedly lukewarm. The city’s attitude will never get a new theater in downtown Rochester; getting that kind of cash requires an elected official as champion.

Reading about Buffalo’s Broadway success is a little frustrating because Rochester tore down its stately theaters. The former RKO Palace is now a parking lot. The decision to preserve and restore Shea’s ended up being a huge for downtown Buffalo.

RBTL insists a new theater would be an economic engine.

A million dollars a week…

The Wall Street Journal says Rochester has “reinvented itself.” The paper asks why the unemployment rate isn’t higher, given the enormous number of jobs shed by Kodak and other major employers. The answer? Entrepreneurship.

Excerpt:

Many of the people laid off by the large companies in Rochester are highly trained engineers who have started their own companies and live in the upscale neighborhoods of Pittsford, Penfield and Brighton. Some have left the engineering world behind as they made the transition from company man to entrepreneur.

But the article also notes wages have declined and unskilled workers are worse off.

Reuters contrasts thriving Eastman Chemical and struggling Kodak. Eastman Chemical doesn’t spend lavishly on benefits and CEO perks and managed to keep up with the changing industry.

Excerpt:

Interviews with former executives, retirees and analysts describe two companies that were polar opposites in many ways, despite their shared heritage: where Eastman Chemical was swift to move into new markets, Kodak rested on its laurels for too long; where Chemical had a management team obsessed with the bottom line, Kodak retained cushy employee benefits even when the advent of digital cameras caused film demand to crater.

“George Eastman’s legacy will be Eastman Chemical and not Eastman Kodak,” said Willy Shih, a Harvard Business School professor who ran Kodak’s digital imaging business from 1997 until 2005. “I am absolutely convinced of that.”

Fox News reports film projectors will be out of use in theaters within the next four years. How will that affect Kodak, which still makes a lot of film for the movie industry?

Excerpt:

Is Kodak, the company that single-handedly pioneered much of the film industry getting involved in the rush? Not so much, the company said.

Kodak recently told Variety that its film business was still profitable and quite viable.

“We’re still making billions of feet of film and will continue to do so,” Ingrid Goodyear, vice president of marketing said. “For the foreseeable future we still see film to be an important part of Kodak’s business.”