The bottom for film demand is nowhere near close.
The continued affordable production of film (135, 120) will depend on 2 related outcomes:
1) Continuation of film in motion pictures as an alternative to digital, backed by some industry re-investment (money). There's more hand-wringing about film in the motion picture industry then there is here, mostly because of the high-profile artistic investments and the capacity of film to get shots that digital cannot handle. This is the bulwark to the whole industry. Its buying power is the generator of raw material demand and reasonable pricing. Motion pictures generate the only known and measurable ROI for film use currently (with some medical/dental stuff still around).
2) A corporate entity with vision and capital to re-brand and market film as an alternative with interesting heritage and unique properties. A digital file is a digital file, and almost all digital photos are quite sterile in medium, and ritually identically similar in binary, if technically near-perfect in desired focus and exposure. Film can be marketed as a unique footprint (like Polaroid did vis-a-vis the rest of the market). Film has authenticity, history, and alchemy as marketable traits. Someone may step up to the plate to do this, but they inherit a camera market now mostly based on salvage equipment, a tiny home developing market, and over-productive capacity. The latter can be rationalized if film use continues in motion pictures. Any corporate entity to step will likely be one that inherits Kodak's current film assets in an entity separate from the digital operations.
- The toy and home development market cannot sustain a single supplier; not one, and not even if it were black and white only. Ten years before the ultimate end. Raw materials and supplies unique to emulsions and coating equipment will be too expensive to source for such a small sector, and the technical expertise to formulate the compounds, run the systems, and re-tool the machines will become too costly. The whole industry supply chain requires more volume than this and that means Kodak and/or Fuji being salvaged to some extent (probably not both). Iflord, Efke, Lucky....cannot survive on those volumes.
- Fuji will be an issue within the next 24 months. Film culture is very strong in Japan, more than perhaps anywhere else on the planet. It's hard to say if Fuji can cost-shift film production costs from other areas out of a sense of loyalty and probably near-monopoly. Very tough to see because there is obviously a very deep commitment to film as it made Fuji as much as it made Kodak. Fuji is just better managed.
- There may be some pip up for someone like Ilford if Kodak ceases all production, but it will be a dead cat bounce lasting less than 2 years because it will do zero to alter the trajectory of declining aggregate demand. Most people just want photos; they don't want a hobby and those who do want a hobby are not around in numbers enough to make a difference.
- A lot of any residual consumer appeal for film will depend on the colour film market and C-41. As such, the still photo market will require a lab system to survive (like what Ilford is doing with B&W, which I heartily applaud). Scanning will be critical, as will cost (if the US P.O. goes into crisis, look out).
- All manufacturers of motion picture cameras have ceased their analog operations for the manufacture of new cameras. They still source parts and service older equipment and are involved in the leasing market, but there is a limit to their capacities here. Whoever picks up Kodak may also have their eye on parts of this market (fingers crossed).
- The Kodak bankruptcy will demonstrate clear figures about film consumption and projections, and, as the bankruptcy unfolds, those will be moving numbers, so a trendline will be possible to see.
- In the irony of ironies, instant film may actually survive where roll and cartridge film do not. Bold prediction.
- I make no observations regarding LF film because it may be possible (just) to micro-produce those films, or at least working product. Quality will be the critical issue although other, technical ones may appear (it may all need to be drum scanned, for example). Hard to say.