Don't know if this would be rumor mongering or not...but an Ilford tech told me a week or two ago that cibas were sorta bottoming out. In a way I sorta believe this. There are maybe a dozen labs in my area, with 2 large ones. Of all these, only 2 are left that use Cibachrome, and only one of those has an actual cibachrome processor--a big 52 some odd inch beast. This lab has a Lightjet printer as well and uses RA4 materials for it--they've done quite a number of murals and prints for us in the past couple of years, and they started more expensive than regular optical prints--but now they're much, much cheaper. Think we're getting a 5x7 for maybe 7-8 bucks, whereas a Cibachrome would have been maybe twice that for one without any type of masking or whatever. A straight print. We either do the scan in-house and they tweak the final, or they do a drum scan.
We just did an exhibit that had something like 150 photos in it, half of them outsourced to 2 labs and done on Lightjet printers. Of these, there were 18 murals--one was 16 feet long. It was a big enough job to have to go out for bids, and wound up getting split between two vendors. I really can't believe that using internegs or even traditional optical prints would have been better or cheaper. A number of labs took part in the bids, and if they could have done it cheaper optically --believe me, they would have--because lower bidder almost always wins these jobs, for better or for worse.
I just can't see the business sense for a lab to stick with anything but Lightjets or Lambda printers for this type of work. What I've seen in my area is that either the labs have the business base to afford the astronomical outlay of dough for one of these machines--or try to compete and slowly go under. The other thing is, that you can get a print made at a lab halfway across the country when it comes down to it--so that's another killer for this business. One of the labs was two states away and shipped the murals packed in a ten foot long crate overnight that weighed almost 800 pounds. We had to move it with a forklift. All the communication via email, telephone, and Fed EX--never met anyone from the lab face to face, and they did a great job. no problems.
of course, as always, my opinions only.