Kodak taking my Kodachrome away

Kodachrome's complex processing needs and rise of digital technology hurt demand for the iconic color film.

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By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com contributing writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Eastman Kodak Co. said Monday that is retiring Kodachrome color film after 74 years on the market.

When Kodak (EK, Fortune 500) introduced Kodachrome in 1935, it became the first commercially successful color film. But with the rise of digital technology, Kodachrome sales are now just a fraction of 1% of the Kodak's still-picture film revenue, the company said in a press release.

Kodak expects current supplies of Kodachrome film to last until early fall. The company said it will continue to produce and sell other varieties of color film.

Shares of Kodak had fallen more than 2% to trade at $2.79 by 10:10 a.m. ET.

"It was certainly a difficult decision to retire it, given its rich history," said Mary Jane Hellyar, of Kodak, in a prepared statement.

Part of that history includes a 1973 Paul Simon song called "Kodachrome" that begged, "Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away."

Twelve years later, photographer Steve McCurry used Kodachrome for a famous photo of a wide-eyed young Afghan girl peering from the cover of National Geographic Magazine.

Kodachrome is "a complex film to manufacture and an even more complex film to process," Kodak's press release notes, adding that the remaining processor of the film is Dwayne's Photo in Kansas.

That difficulty, coupled with the rise of digital technology, hurt demand for Kodachrome, the company said. About 70% of Kodak's revenue comes from commercial and consumer digital businesses.

McCurry, the photographer who took the iconic National Geographic image in 1985, will shoot one of the last rolls of Kodachrome film. Those photos will be donated to the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, N.Y.

"The early part of my career was dominated by Kodachrome film, and I reached for that film to shoot some of my most memorable images," said McCurry in the press release. "While Kodachrome film was very good to me, I have since moved on to other films and digital to create my images."

Dwayne's Photo left a farewell letter to the film on its homepage.

"This is a sad occasion for us, as we're sure it is for many of you," the site said. "While we understand the business realities...we are still sorry to see the film go....Nothing will ever capture 'those nice bright colors' in quite the same way."

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