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Variety (29/Mar/1972) - International: Stiffer Competition Sparks Change in U.K. Labs' Conservative Policies




Stiffer Competition Sparks Change In U.K. Labs Conservative Policies

Sharpening competition for trade among British film laboratories has began to cue some re-thinking and re-shaping of traditional — ie. conservative — attitudes among more aggressive lab managements.

Root of cause is too much U.K. lab capacity chasing depleting production. The cozier days are over and, observers predict, one or two outfits will go under in the rapidly developing dog-eat-dog ambiance.

Most radical change in approach — from sanguine to snappy — is the upheaval at Technicolor Ltd., the U.K. end of the noted Hollywood-London-Rome axis now controlled by Harry Saltzman.

Saltzman broke the traditional line of "lab men" who administered Techni's London business with the appointment last September of Bill Ingram as managing director.

In a startling rise to power — in two years Ingram has escalated from European Service Manager (print control) at Universal to m.d. of a major lab — exec has brought a new element to lab management: "customer mentality."

Whereas previously exec appointments at Techni always came from "within the lab trade," the major part of Ingram's 30-year film biz career (Warner Bros. U, CIC) has been as a lab customer. Therein, Ingram figures, lies his strength.

"When I arrived," he declares, "I found the system had been far too inward-looking. I have been putting across another point of view — the customer's — and it is working."

Ingram who entered film distribution when he was 14 years old, and later became involved in production and thereafter editing before returning to distribution with U.S. majors, looks to be more savvy to distrib problems and requirements than the guy who came up from the laboratory floor.

Ingram has no doubts that his lab will survive the work famine and figures to have a lean, fit "service and quality" operation ready to move into the European common market (1973).

"When those tariffs come down" he says, "it is going to be a whole new ballgame. Pricewise, we will be in a much more competitive position than any lab in Europe." Additional advantage, too, will be the complete interchangability of equipment with the Rome plant.

Ingram has been sharpening Techni staff reflexes by development of clients in the tv commercial trade and is winding them up for what he predicts will be an 8m explosion.

Exec believes cassetted 8m is about to take off as- a (point of) "sales tool" and in the educational field. It has been around for years, but the video cassette hypo has jacked up the interest. "8m is here and now. Videotape cassette hardware is still years away. And I think at least we have got away from the notion that 8m is 'amateur'."

Technicolor has, of course, developed a super 8m cassette projector which shortly will become subject to a major launch locally. Hence Ingram's faith in the direction of an 8m upsurge.

But should film cassettes, which requires lab processing, fail against video cassettes, which require electronic duplication, it could be that Technicolor, in common with other labs, will have to figure on yet more radical maneuvers to keep abreast of market conditions.