Below is a timeline for all of the notable home video releases. 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.
March 30th, 1933 (Los Angeles Evening Post-Record, 1933/03/25, p. 6)
The experimental station, W6XAO, airs The Crooked Circle (1932) to the few television owners in the Los Angeles Area. This is the very first time that a full-length movie is shown on television.
Film editor and distributor, Eugene Castle, revives Pathe’s Pathegram line of home movies. The first release, Hindenburg Explodes!, is a huge success, taking in a reported $40,000-$50,000 (nearly $1 million today) in the first few days.
November 3rd, 1956 (Variety, 1956/11/07, p. 33)
The Wizard of Oz (1939) is the first major film shown unedited on a major network. With sponsorship by Ford Motor Company, CBS-TV paid $250,000 to MGM to broadcast the film.
November 8, 1972 (Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, 1972/11/08, p. 39)
On its inaugural airing, HBO (Home Box Office), broadcasts a hockey match Between the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks, followed by their first feature film, Sometimes a Great Notion (1971).
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.
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.
February, 1985 (Variety, 1985/02/13, p. 51)
MGM/UA learns that approximately 30,000 copies of the Gone With the Wind (1939) has 45 seconds of the wrong music. According to the studio, because the copies used music from the international version of the film, they have to discard them.. The mistake costs the studio $100,000. This release is also the very first special collector’s edition on videocassette.
United Home Entertainment markets their in-house film, Blood Cult (1985), as the first horror film made directly for the home video market. Although it’s not the first horror film to skip theatrical, it is believed to be the first made with the sole purpose of distribution on the home 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.
May, 1985 (Variety, 1985/04/24, p. 63)
The first colorized black-and-white films are released on home video by Hal Roach Studios. The first is for the 1937 Cary Grant film, Topper. The concept of film colorization caused quite a controversy at the time, with many believing that the process impeded upon the intentions of the original filmmakers.
June, 1986 (Billboard, 1986/04/19, p. 1)
Two years since the launch of the camcorder format by Kodak, Paramount becomes the first major studio to distribute titles on the Video8 / 8 mm format. Other studios would follow suit, including Embassy, RCA/Columbia and MGM/UA. By the February 1987, there are reportedly 800 titles on the format. The very first title was Tina Turner: Private Dancer, released the previous year by Sony Video Software. Prerecords continued to be released up through the mid-90s.
James Lardner’s account of the video industry, Fast Forward, is released. Its the first book to thoroughly document the rise of the VCR and the resulting legal battles.It includes interviews with such pioneers as Andre Blay and George Atkinson.
March 11th, 1987 (Billboard, 1987/03/11, p. 1)
Top Gun (1986) becomes the very first videocassette of a major film with a product commercial. In collaboration with Paramount Home Video, Pepsi places a 60-second ad before the start of the film. Because of the commercial, Paramount reduces the price of the videocassette $3 less than what it would’ve cost without it. Its listed at $26.95.
February, 1988 (Billboard, 1988/02/13, p. 4)
Super Source Video releases the first two prerecorded S-Video releases. They are for the special interest titles, Impact Zone ($54.95) and River Song ($44.94). Up until 1991, they would release up to 38 titles on the format from various studios, including Paramount, New Line Cinema and Hemdale Home Video. Among these included Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1990), Top Gun (1986) and The Terminator (1984).
1989 (Derran 1989 Catalog)
Derran films in the U.K. releases a full-length print of Star Wars (1977) on Super 8. This is the only time that the the film is ever released in full to the public on film. It is on 4 600ft reels and is presented in scope. It sells for £289 (for the stereo version).
Film critic Chris Gore lends actor Charlie Sheen a stack of videotapes, and among them is a copy of the Japanese splatter film, Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985). Believing he was seeing an actual snuff film, he reports it to the FBI. After investigating the filmmakers, they find no one was harmed in the making of the movie.
March, 1992 (Billboard, 1992/01/18, p. 54)
The Voyager Company, most notable at the time for their Criterion Collection line of laserdiscs, releases the first three feature-length movies on CD-ROM. They are the documentaries, “Poetry in Motion,” “To New Horizons: Ephemeral Films 1931-1945” and “You Can’t Get There From Here.” Later that year, they release the first Hollywood film, A Hard Day’s Night (1964), on the format. These are regarded as the first feature-length movies viewable on a PC.
March 24th, 1997 (Billboard, 1997/04/12, p. 3)
In a soft test launch involving seven U.S. cities, Warner Home Video distributes their first 25 titles on the new DVD format (the first of which is the disaster film, Twister (1996)). Best Buy reveals that within the the first day of the format’s launch, they sold approximately 2,500 Warner DVDs from the 74 stores that carried the format.