Below is a timeline for all the significant events of the home video era. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Utilizing Matsushita’s VX format, Quasar (the American subsidiary of Matsushita) releases the Great Time Machine (model VR-1000) to the American market. The device immediately fails and no subsequent models are released in the U.S.
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.
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.
The very first VHS VCR hits the American market in the form of the RCA Selectavision VBT-200.
Quality X forms to distribute adult titles on the new Beta/VHS formats. First advertises this month in Al Goldstein’s Screw magazine.
Atkinson opens “Video Cassette Rentals” in Los Angeles, the first brick and mortar video rental shop in the country. First Advertised on December 6th in The Los Angeles Times, the store opens with both 1/2″ and 3/4″ formats. According to Atkinson, the store opens with both VHS and Betamax versions of the Magnetic Video catalog.
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.
The Video 2000 format is launched by Philips and Grundig to compete with the VHS and Beta formats. It’s only ever distributed in Europe, South Africa and Argentina. Prerecorded movies are made available. Discontinued in 1989.
Still skeptical of the home video market, Paramount decides to license its films for videocassette rental through Fotomat, a nationwide photo development chain.
November, 1979 (Billboard, 1979/11/17, p. 62)
After a successful test run with Fotomat, Paramount debuts 10 titles through their own newly formed home video division. Several of these titles are The Godfather and Saturday Night Fever.
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).