Veni, Vidi, Video
The Hollywood Empire and the VCR
Publication Year: 2001
Published by: University of Texas Press
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I stepped off the bus in Salt Lake City looking for a job in an independent film company. Within several hours, I was hired to be an assistant editor on a small-budget film that had sat on the shelf for several years, waiting for a theatrical release. It was now being dusted off for the very new and very wide open video market. I felt like a forty-niner stumbling onto Sutter’s gold mine. ...
Introduction: Signs of the Time
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Sumner Redstone had a problem in the fall of 1993. He wanted to buy Paramount studio for his own company, Viacom. Redstone had been in the movie theater business since 1954. In 1987, he took over Viacom, a television company that distributed syndicated shows and ran the MTV and Nickelodeon cable channels. But now he wanted a show biz legend, he wanted Paramount, ...
1. Film Distribution and Home Viewing before the VCR
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When the audience adopted the VCR, they had already experienced several historical evolutions in film showings. The VCR was not sui generis. It was another evolution, triggered perhaps by a technological breakthrough, but definitely flowing out of extant relationships. The examination in this chapter of the prior histories of film and broadcasting is necessary in order to ...
2. The Development of Video Recording
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David Sarnoff, the head of RCA, was already a media legend when he joined the service, where he rose to the rank of brigadier general during World War II. After the war, General Sarnoff often exercised a military style of command and strategy as he redirected huge resources to tackle seemingly insurmountable problems. When, on September 27, 1951, RCA staged an elaborate ...
3. Home Video: The Early Years
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The success of the VHS was a revelation about the evolving U.S. audience. Unfortunately for several corporations, U.S. executives did not accurately predict audience response to the VHS. For example, RCA executives swapped contradictory or inconclusive focus group summaries as they tried to build a consensus for the playback-only Selectavision. The fact that they dismissed ...
4. The Years of Independence: 1981–1986
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The five years of 1981 to 1986 are the golden years of home video production and distribution. This period was one of new companies exploring new possibilities in film production and distribution, as well as developing a totally new approach to exhibition: the rental of videotapes. It is difficult to tell the story of these years in a linear sequence since it involves so many new and ...
5. Video Becomes Big Business
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By 1986, the sale of prerecorded cassettes had matured. There were shakeouts and consolidations in the American and international film industries in the following years. The shakeouts were predictable, although their scope and shape were not natural occurrences. Indeed, many important results were counterintuitive. Despite video’s popularity, theatrical attendance remained ...
6. Consolidation and Shakeouts
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On the first page of Vestron’s 1986 annual report, Austin Furst explained “dramatically lower earnings” by stating that “home video rental demand for movies reflected a narrowing focus on titles, which had achieved strong consumer awareness through significant theatrical exposure and promotional support. . . . Many of the movies that Vestron released into the home video ...
7. The Lessons of the Video Revolution
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The narrative of the video revolution culminates around 1993–1994. The years since have not changed the lessons of the revolution, although we can speculate on modifications and further transitions. For example: media corporations merged and grew large in the years following the introduction of the VCR. Now these companies are growing even larger as cultural products ...
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Page Count: 270
Illustrations: 18 b&w photos, 2 figures, 18 tables
Publication Year: 2001
Series Title: Texas Film and Media Studies Series