Below is a timeline for all notable retailers related to home video. Some of these retailers may also be distributors. 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 14th, 1894
The first kinetoscope parlor opens in New York City, at 1155 Broadway, on the corner of 27th Street. It is often considered by many as the first movie house or by some extension, an early ancestor to the video rental store.
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.
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.
May, 1979 (Billboard, 1979/03/08, p. 18)
Theater owner, Arthur Morowitz, opens his first Video Shack store in Manhattan, NY, at the corner of 49th and Broadway. It becomes an iconic NY fixture during the 1980s. Its believed to be the first video specialty store to only sell videocassettes.
Still skeptical of the home video market, Paramount decides to license its films for videocassette rental through Fotomat, a nationwide photo development chain.
May 10th, 1980 (Variety, 1980/03/03, p. 50)
To first test the home videocassette market, Disney makes their titles available to Fotomat’s Drive-Thru Movies program.
October 14th, 1982 (Variety, 1982/10/13, p. 45)
The world’s first videocassette vending machine, the “Videomat,” is distributed throughout Germany, mainly at grocery stores and gas stations. With the machine, a patron can either rent or purchase a cassette. It holds a total of 200 videocassettes.
November 23rd, 1984
Courts decided that renting out private booths for the viewing of movies constitutes as a public viewing, and therefore, violates copyright. The store in question was Maxwell’s Video Showcase in Eerie, Pennsylvania.
Partners Joe Malugen and Harrison Parrish open the very first Movie Gallery store in Dothan, Alabama.
December, 19th, 1985
The first Blockbuster rental store opens in Dallas, Texas by software engineer David Cook and his ex-wife. Their goal is to make their store a family-oriented superstore. On opening day, it has a massive selection of 8,000 titles.
Mark Wattles registers the company name “Hollywood Entertainment” in Oregon on June 6th, 1988, and opens the first Hollywood Video location in Portland. It later becomes a mega chain.
January 31st, 1995 (Statesman Journal, 1995/05/03, p. 4)
Blockbuster Video sues Hollywood Video for $10 million, accusing the Portland chain of stealing trade secrets by hiring ex-Blockbuster employees. The case is also against the two employees who left Blockbuster, who the chain accuses of violating their original employment contract.
April 21st, 1997 (PR Newswire, 1997/04/21, p. 1)
Reel.com is the first to use an online ordering form for the rental of movies. They launch their service with 35,000 titles available for rent. Although much smaller websites, such as Home Film Festival (homefilmfestival.com), Video Wasteland (slaughter.net) and Video Vault (videovault.com) were already renting videos over the internet, they required calling or e-mailing an order in.
April, 1998 (Billboard, 1998/05/16, p. 53)
With the company established the previous year, Netflix launches their online DVD rental service with 925 titles available for rent for $5 each.
June, 2003 (Wall Street Journal, 2003/06/20, Online)
DVD outrents VHS for the very first time. According to the VSDA, “This is a milestone in the history of home video. Since the advent of video rental 25 years ago, videocassettes have been the dominant format.” According to VSDA VidTrac, 28.2 million DVDs were rented during the week ending June 15, 2003, while 27.3 million VHS cassettes were rented.
May, 2004 (Fresno Bee, 2004/05/26, p. C6)
Redbox begins a test launch of DVD rental kiosks in the Denver area. They become the first widely successful DVD vending service in the country. Prior to splitting off into a separate entity, the concept began as a McDonald’s Ventures project to drive more customers to their restaurants. By November of 2012, they will have 42,000 kiosks across the country.
December 14th, 2004 (Whitehorse Daily Star, 2004/12/14, p. 12)
Blockbuster Video announces that it will be eliminating the late fee beginning on January 1st, 2005. According to the new policy, each rental will still have a return date, however, there will be a week long grace period after which Blockbuster will consider the item purchased and will charge the customer its full retail cost minus the original rental fee after 30 days. Two months after launch, the state of New Jersey sues the company for deceptive practices.
October 12th, 2005 (Wall Street Journal, 2005/10/13, p. B1)
Apple announces iTunes 6, the latest incarnation of their music downloading software. This time around, it allows users to purchase music videos and TV shows for viewing on their latest iPod model.
September 12th, 2006 (Chicago Tribune, 2006/09/13, p. 3)
Apple finally announces full-length movies to be played back on the iPod. They open with 75 titles from the Walt Disney Company, each costing between $9.99 and $14.99.
January, 2007 (New York Times, 2007/01/25, p. C1)
Netflix slowly rolls out their movie streaming service at 250,000 customers at a time. Its a subscription-based streaming only service. Depending of the subscription, users are given an allotment of viewing hours each month. There are 1,000 titles to choose from at launch. The rollout is expected to complete by July.