ROCHESTER, New York -- Sorry, Paul Simon, Kodak is taking your Kodachrome away.
Eastman Kodak said Monday it's retiring its most senior film because of declining customer demand in an increasingly digital age.
The world's first commercially successful color film, immortalized in song by Simon, spent 74 years in Kodak's portfolio. It enjoyed its heyday in the 1950s and '60s but in recent years has nudged closer to obscurity: Sales of Kodachrome are now just a fraction of 1% of the company's total sales of still-picture films, and only one commercial lab in the world still processes it and it was being made only about once a year.
Those numbers and the unique materials needed to make it persuaded Kodak to call its most recent manufacturing run the last, said Mary Jane Hellyar, the outgoing president of Kodak's Film, Photofinishing and Entertainment Group.
"Kodachrome is particularly difficult (to retire) because it really has become kind of an icon," Hellyar said.
Simon crooned about it in 1973 in the aptly titled Kodachrome.
"They give us those nice bright colors. They give us the greens of summers. Makes you think all the world's a sunny day," he sang. "... So Mama don't take my Kodachrome away."
Indeed, Kodachrome was favored by still and motion picture photographers for its rich but realistic tones, vibrant colors and durability.
It was the basis not only for countless family slideshows on carousel projectors over the years but also for world-renowned images, including Abraham Zapruder's 8 mm reel of President John F. Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.
Hellyar estimates the retail supply of Kodachrome will run out in autumn, though it could be sooner if devotees stockpile. In the U.S., Kodachrome film is available only through photo specialty dealers. In Europe, some retailers, including the Boots chain, carry it.
Photojournalist Steve McCurry's widely recognized portrait of an Afghan refugee girl, shot on Kodachrome, appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1985. At Kodak's request, McCurry will shoot one of the last rolls of Kodachrome film and donate the images to the George Eastman House museum, which honors the company's founder, in Rochester.