Below is a timeline for all the events pertaining to the companies who distributed movies to the home market. 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.
Time Life begins advertising the availability of “telecourses” for Sony’s U-matic system. The programs are mostly business related, included training for secretarial work, professional communication and a 4-hour course on speed reading with TV personality, Dick Cavett, priced at $4,500.
1975 (Independent Film, 1975/04/02, p. 13)
At least three major studios, including Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox and Paramount, enter into agreements to have their films available for the upcoming Discovision (laserdisc) format. The studios preferred this disc format over videocassette, as their players didn’t have the ability to record.
March 17th, 1975 (Billboard, 1975/03/01, p. 1)
The Teldec TeD (Television Disc) becomes the first consumer videodisc to reach the market. It’s an 8 or 12-inch in diameter disc which at most contains 10 minutes of video. In its first three months, 6,000 units (each costing $600) and 50,000 discs are manufactured and distributed throughout Germany.
June, 1976 (Billboard, 1976/08/14, p. 1)
Paramount partners with Sony to release prerecorded videocassettes on the Betamax format. The joint-venture is called “The Sony-Paramount Home Entertainment Center.” They plan to first test the market, but ultimately, nothing comes of the agreement.
October, 1976 (Videography, 1976/10)
Joel Jacobson’s Home Cinema Service begins offering prerecorded U-matic and Betmax cassettes of public domain and adult films through advertisements in Videography Magazine.
Universal conducts a complete upgrade of their own home movie division by rebranding it as “Universal 8.”
Mark Slade’s company, “Entertainment Video Releasing” begins advertising adult films on U-matic and Betamax in Videography magazine. They would later include a variety non-adult titles to their catalogue, likely public domain features.
May 25th, 1977
George Lucas’s sci-fi epic, Star Wars, opens in theaters across the country. Although seemingly unrelated to home video, the hit rejuvenates Hollywood, specifically its distributor, 20th Century Fox. Months later, they would agree to license out their classics for videocassette distribution.
Time-Life adds BBC programs to their video catalog.
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.
Prestigious home movies distributor, Blackhawk Films, begins to offer Betamax videocassettes after 50 years of only dealing in film. The move is their attempt to adapt to the changing market.
Magnetic Video’s line of 20th Century Fox titles are made available to the public via retail outlets such as electronic and record stores. They cost $49.95.
Quality X forms to distribute adult titles on the new Beta/VHS formats. First advertises this month in Al Goldstein’s Screw magazine.
The Video Club of America offers a mail order delivery service of discounted cassettes (20% off) upon paying a $10 membership fee. They first advertise in The New York Times on November 20th.
November 26th, 1977
Magnetic Video advertises a 2-page advertisement for the Video Club of America in TV Guide, costing the company $30,000. The campaign is wildly successful, generating over $140,000 in orders and club subscription fees after just a few days.
Filmmaker Charles Band announces MEDA, an acronym which stands for “Media-Home Entertainment Distribution Association.” The new home video label will specialize in distributing independent films and other programs on VHS and Betamax. Their first two titles, Flesh Gordon and Alice in Wonderland, are announced the following month.
With over 500 titles in their catalog and a bankruptcy looming on the horizon, Allied Artists decides to jump into the home video market. They become the very first studio to first distribute their titles through their own home video division.
20th Century Fox buys Magnetic Video for $7.2 million and launches their own home video division. Andre Blay remains with the company.
December 15th, 1978
MCA and Philips do a soft launch of the Magnavox Magnavision HR-8000 Laserdisc (or laservision) player ($695). Its only made available at three authorized retailers in Atlanta, Georgia. Whereas Philips supplied the players (through their American subsidiary, Magnavox), MCA supplied the initial 72 Discovision discs.
January, 1979 (Billboard, 1979/01/27, p. 3)
Abkco Music files a copyright infringement suit against M.E.D.A. (Media Home Entertainment), claiming a videocassette entitled The Rolling Stones in Concert includes music that wasn’t licensed. The judge issues a writ of seizure order for all masters and videocassette copies. This marks the very first time where a music company sought legal action against a home video distributor.