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Veni, Vidi, Video

Veni, Vidi, Video

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  • Book Info
    Veni, Vidi, Video
    Book Description:

    A funny thing happened on the way to the movies. Instead of heading downtown to a first-run movie palace, or even to a suburban multiplex with the latest high-tech projection capabilities, many people's first stop is now the neighborhood video store. Indeed, video rentals and sales today generate more income than either theatrical releases or television reruns of movies.

    This pathfinding book chronicles the rise of home video as a mass medium and the sweeping changes it has caused throughout the film industry since the mid-1970s. Frederick Wasser discusses Hollywood's initial hostility to home video, which studio heads feared would lead to piracy and declining revenues, and shows how, paradoxically, video revitalized the film industry with huge infusions of cash that financed blockbuster movies and massive marketing campaigns to promote them. He also tracks the fallout from the video revolution in everything from changes in film production values to accommodate the small screen to the rise of media conglomerates and the loss of the diversity once provided by smaller studios and independent distributors.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79896-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Signs of the Time
    (pp. 1-22)

    Sumner Redstone had a problem in the fall of 1993. He wanted to buy Paramount studio for his own company, Viacom. Redstone had been in the movie theater business since 1954. In 1987, he took over Viacom, a television company that distributed syndicated shows and ran the MTV and Nickelodeon cable channels. But now he wanted a show biz legend, he wanted Paramount, the studio of Adolph Zukor and Cecil B. DeMille. This was the studio that pioneered the Hollywood film industry, starting in 1914. It was still, to this day, the only major U.S. studio actually headquartered in Hollywood,...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Film Distribution and Home Viewing before the VCR
    (pp. 23-47)

    When the audience adopted the VCR, they had already experienced several historical evolutions in film showings. The VCR was not sui generis. It was another evolution, triggered perhaps by a technological breakthrough, but definitely flowing out of extant relationships. The examination in this chapter of the prior histories of film and broadcasting is necessary in order to understand these relationships. We will see that the VCR was only the latest manifestation of home viewing of movies. There were premature attempts to rent movies to individual households in the second decade of this century. There was the earlier convergence of movies...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Development of Video Recording
    (pp. 48-75)

    David Sarnoff, the head of RCA, was already a media legend when he joined the service, where he rose to the rank of brigadier general during World War II. After the war, General Sarnoff often exercised a military style of command and strategy as he redirected huge resources to tackle seemingly insurmountable problems. When, on September 27, 1951, RCA staged an elaborate celebration of Sarnoff’s forty-five years in the radio business,¹ the general directed his engineering staff to present him with three more breakthrough inventions in the next five years. One of the breakthroughs he wanted was a “videograph,” a...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Home Video: The Early Years
    (pp. 76-103)

    The success of the VHS was a revelation about the evolving U.S. audience. Unfortunately for several corporations, U.S. executives did not accurately predict audience response to the VHS. For example, RCA executives swapped contradictory or inconclusive focus group summaries as they tried to build a consensus for the playback-only Selectavision. The fact that they dismissed some summaries as inconclusive shows how hard it is to know the audience before the fact. As it turned out, the audience embraced the VHS despite contrary predictions. Indeed, the development and eventual success of the VHS provides as good a controlled experiment as is...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR The Years of Independence: 1981–1986
    (pp. 104-130)

    The five years of 1981 to 1986 are the golden years of home video production and distribution. This period was one of new companies exploring new possibilities in film production and distribution, as well as developing a totally new approach to exhibition: the rental of videotapes. It is difficult to tell the story of these years in a linear sequence since it involves so many new and old players acting, reacting, and even ignoring each other. Our first task is to complete our survey of video distributors by looking at the new ones springing up alongside the major film studios...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER FIVE Video Becomes Big Business
    (pp. 131-157)

    By 1986, the sale of prerecorded cassettes had matured. There were shakeouts and consolidations in the American and international film industries in the following years. The shakeouts were predictable, although their scope and shape were not natural occurrences. Indeed, many important results were counterintuitive. Despite video’s popularity, theatrical attendance remained steady and the theatrical release continued to draw the overwhelming share of attention and promotional budgets. The vastly expanded market of home video did not result in a permanent escalation of production. Production actually dropped below levels of the 1970s. This was despite the ever-escalating home video revenue flow, which...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Consolidation and Shakeouts
    (pp. 158-184)

    On the first page of Vestron’s 1986 annual report, Austin Furst explained “dramatically lower earnings” by stating that “home video rental demand for movies reflected a narrowing focus on titles, which had achieved strong consumer awareness through significant theatrical exposure and promotional support. . . . Many of the movies that Vestron released into the home video market had very limited theatrical exposure and did not sell as well as we might have expected based on the performance of similar films released by the company in the past.”¹

    These few words pinpointed the challenge for the new independent video distributors...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN The Lessons of the Video Revolution
    (pp. 185-206)

    The narrative of the video revolution culminates around 1993–1994. The years since have not changed the lessons of the revolution, although we can speculate on modifications and further transitions. For example: media corporations merged and grew large in the years following the introduction of the VCR. Now these companies are growing even larger as cultural products are being distributed over the internet. Are the two responses related? Before we speculate on this and what else the video narrative tells us, we must answer the following two-part question: First, what did the media industries learn from the growth of home...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 207-226)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-236)
  15. Index
    (pp. 237-246)