Another problem is one which has been discussed in some previous threads on this general topic. When a company is trying to run huge high capacity machines at a small fraction of their maximum output, the overhead becomes a higher percentage of the unit product cost. Among other things, this could mean reducing continuous runs to occasional batch runs which creates all sorts of potential waste from the start-up and process tuning, plus shutdown and cleanup. And then the company is between a rock and a hard place, as replacing the machine with a smaller one could cost an outrageous sum which stockholders would run away from in what appears to be a declining market.
Indeed. It is important to consider "fully loaded" costs when comparing the unit cost of production to the unit retail price. In addition to direct labour and materials, some fraction of every other cost of running Ilford's day to day operations must be allocated to the cost of making a roll of film. This includes everything from real estate costs (rent etc) to indirect salaries to marketing to customer service. Some costs are fixed, some are variable, etc.
From what I have read, making film is as much art as it is science and engineering. And good art is expensive.
The OP seems to confuse the concept of mole with mass. The mole is a just a unitless number equal to 6.02 X 1023. In order to speak of a mass you have to multiple this number by the mass of a silver atom. In this case a gram mole of silver would weight 107.9 grams. So it is perfectly possible to speak of gram moles, kilogram moles even pound moles. Perhaps this misunderstanding leads him to believe that the amount of silver in film is not important.
If you are a photographer selling artwork, the cost of the film is a very insignificant part of your expenses. I don't know if it's the age of the internet, but this entitlement mentality that comes from "free" news, "free" software, etc. is frightening.
In my portrait studio, I currently charge $65 for a mounted 5x7, and people happily pay it. Why? Because they are paying for the content of the image that is printed on that 5x7, not for the raw materials used to produce it. They are paying for emotion, for memories, and they value that greatly. Some people, of course, say "well, crap, I can make my own photos for a lot less than that!" To which I would say "yes, but you can't make MY photographs." That's the difference.
When you buy a roll of film, you are paying not only for the equipment used to make it, but also for the brainpower needed to design it, quality control it, box it, ship it, etc. which is significantly more expensive than the equipment.
Some of us, I am sure, can make our own film or paper if we wanted to. Not me, but even if I could, why bother? You can buy a sheet of 4x5 film for $1.50 or less. A 4x5 contact print on Lodima (the most expensive paper currently available) will cost a whopping $0.65. It's a lot cheaper than golf. Last time I played, it was $75. That's 20 rolls of HP5!