When I was a kid, I remember watching that EPIC intro HBO would play before a featured film. At that time, it was about one year after a movie premiered in theaters that it would arrive on HBO, yet the movies still seemed "new" to me. I remember watching Ghostbusters II and feeling like I was getting the latest and greatest content in the world. After all, what's one year to wait for a great movie, especially when you're 10 years old?
These days, waiting one year for a home video release of a blockbuster movie is an eternity. People don't like waiting, be it for their Venti latte, In-N-Out Double-Double, or anything else. They want the latest movie or TV show right now, and they want it on every device they own with no hassle. The world is moving faster, and movie release dates have followed suit. The gap from premiere to rental to premium cable has shrunk to the point where some movies come out in the theater and on demand at the same time. Is this good or bad for the industry?
The Way It Used to Be
I remember seeing the poster for Back to the Future Part II at the theater and getting super excited. I had no idea it was coming. All it took was a poster of the DeLorean with flames trailing behind it to get me stoked. The problem was, my family didn't go to the movies that often, so I waited...and waited. Pretty soon I forgot what I was waiting for because something else came and took its place. So, when I walked into the local mom-and-pop video shop six months later and saw that they had Back to the Future Part II for rent, I was ecstatic. Oh, right! I really wanted to see that. And now I could. Just remember to be kind and rewind.
Six months was par for the course back then for a movie to go from the theater to the rental shop. Some movies were priced to sell (usually $19.99), but most were "priced for rental," usually costing $99.99 and up to purchase outright. Top Gun was one of the first tapes to be priced for sale right when the rental came out; I remember the display they had set up in front of the register at my local video store. With other films, the studios would often wait a few months before releasing the "priced-to-own" version. Eventually, tapes like Jurassic Park were $19.99 out of the gate, with no "rental only" period. This didn't sit well with the rental-shop owners who stood to make more off of repeat rentals, but it was good for the studios.
If you couldn't afford to rent movies back then, there was always HBO, which would get movies about a year after they were released in theaters. Even a year later, it seemed like a big deal to watch a "new" movie at home, without having to go to the theater or video store (or rewind tapes).
Click over to Page Two for The Way It Used To Be, Who's Behind It, and A Short History Lesson . . .