Below is a timeline for every significant event in the history of movies in the home (with more being added). It should be noted that this website uses the term, “Home Video,” in two different ways. Firstly, it uses it as an umbrella term for the viewing of movies in the home, physical or otherwise. Secondly, its also the label given to the era in time where movies are being released on physical video formats.
Sony introduces the LV-1901 (the same model as the LV-1801 in Japan) to the U.S. market with the pricetag of $2500. Its a TV / VCR combination unit. Like the Japanese model, the unit is only capable of recording 60 minutes per videocassette.
April, 1976 (Fast Forward, Lardner)
In a last ditch effort to sway Matsushita to adopt Betamax, Sony reveals in a meeting that they’ve finally made a 2-hour cassette. In response during that same meeting, JVC (a subsidiary of Matsushita) unveils their VHS (Video Home System) format for the first time, which could also record 2 hours. This ignites the format war.
September 9th, 1976
JVC launches their first VHS VCR in Japan with a cost of approximately $1060.
November 11th, 1976 (Variety, 1976/11/17, p. 1)
MCA-owned Universal, teaming up with Disney, files a lawsuit against Sony in California court. The plaintiffs claim that Sony is deceptively advertising the legitimacy of recording broadcast television with their Betamax VCR.
Sony introduces Beta-II, a new two-hour videocassette that can record an entire movie on a single videocassette. These new cassettes require the latest Betamax VCR to record the full two hours, the SL-8200.
In July of 1977 commercial tape duplicator Andre Blay closed a deal with 20th Century Fox to license 50 titles from their library for $6000 each. The success that followed would send shockwaves throughout the video industry.
January, 1980 (Billboard, 1980/01/05, p. 36)
WCI Home Video (Warner Communications Inc.) make available 20 different titles on videocassette, including, Superman (1978), Deliverance (1972) and Blazing Saddles (1974).
January, 1980 (Billboard, 1980/01/05, p. 38)
Columbia Pictures Home Entertainment makes available 20 titles from their catalog. Several of these include The Deep (1977), Breakout (1975) and Fun With Dick and Jane (1977).
April, 1980 (Billboard, 1980/02/09, p. 10)
MCA Videocassette (parent company of Universal), releases their first batch of 25 titles on videocassette. Titles include Jaws (1975) and The Jerk (1979). Although launch is said to have been April, the titles first appear on Billboard charts in June.
March 22nd, 1981 (Star Tribune, 1981/03/08, p. 9D)
RCA finally launches their videodisc system, a format called Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED). The player goes for $500 and the discs in the $20 range. The first title to roll off the presses is Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977).
December, 1981 (Variety, 1981/12/09, p. 29)
The Video Software Dealers Association is organized by Noel Gimbel to help video retail stores fight against federal legislation that would remove or amend the “first sale doctrine”. They were partnered with NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers) for the first several years and then parted ways.
January 26th, 1982 (Variety, 1982/02/24, p. 47)
First announced the previous year, independent distributor Vestron Video finally kicks off their catalog with their first 10 titles. Among these are Cannonball Run (1981) and Fort Apache, the Bronx (1981).
April, 1982 (Billboard, 1982/03/27, p. 6)
Karl Lorimar Home Video and RCA release actress Jane Fonda’s workout routine on home video. The program is an adaptation of her book with the same title. Because the title was intended for purchase rather than rent, it becomes wildly successful. It spends 239 weeks on Billboard’s Top 40 Videocassettes chart (spending 52 in the top 1 spot).
June 1st, 1982 (Variety, 1982/06/16, p. 37)
Star Wars is first released to videocassette. Within days of its release, it generates over $1 million in revenue. It is released in both a “rental only” version with a serial number, and a standard sale version later that fall. Sale price is $79.98.
August, 1982 (Billboard, 1982/09/11, p. 1)
Paramount announces a major price cut of half ($39.95) for their latest hit title, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982), on videocassette. This is big news in the industry and is the first major push towards the sell-through market by a major studio.
April 21st, 1983
First demonstrated in 1978, JVC launches their videodisc system, VHD (Video High Density), to the Japanese market. Similar to to the CED in that it uses the same recording technology (capacitance) and a disc caddy, its actually superior to the RCA format. Its never sold outside Japan and discontinued in 1987.
First demonstrated in January of that year, Sony launches the first “all in one” consumer camcorder to the market. Models BMC-100P / BMC-110.
January 17th, 1984 (Billboard, 1984/01/28, p. 1)
In a 5-4 decision, the courts find that recording television programming for the purpose of time-shifting is fair use. They also don’t find VCR manufacturers liable for the infringing use of the machine.
June, 1984 (Billboard, 1984/05/19, p. 1)
In a move to to increase revenues with volume, Media Home Entertainment reduces their prices to $19.95 for a portion of their catalog. The price cut is the industry’s second push towards the sell-through market.
April 24th, 1985 (Billboard, 1985/05/04, p. 1)
Embassy Entertainment’s release of “The Cotton Club” is the first home video released with the new copy-protection system from Macrovision. All the major studios follow suit.