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View Full Version : Electronics VHS era is winding down


Deberg_1990
12-30-2008, 09:00 AM
heh, as if you didnt know that already....

Does anyone still use a VCR??

I remember going into video stores in the early 80's and they offered both Beta and VHS rentals. hahah

I also remember when VHS tapes used to cost like $100

Post your VHS memories here:



http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-vhs-tapes22-2008dec22,0,5852342.story


Pop culture is finally hitting the eject button on the VHS tape, the once-ubiquitous home-video format that will finish this month as a creaky ghost of Christmas past.

After three decades of steady if unspectacular service, the spinning wheels of the home-entertainment stalwart are slowing to a halt at retail outlets. On a crisp Friday morning in October, the final truckload of VHS tapes rolled out of a Palm Harbor, Fla., warehouse run by Ryan J. Kugler, the last major supplier of the tapes.

"It's dead, this is it, this is the last Christmas, without a doubt," said Kugler, 34, a Burbank businessman. "I was the last one buying VHS and the last one selling it, and I'm done. Anything left in warehouse we'll just give away or throw away."

Dumped in a humid Florida landfill? It's an ignominious end for the innovative product that redefined film-watching in America and spawned an entire sector led by new household names like Blockbuster and West Coast Video. Those chains gave up on VHS a few years ago but not Kugler, who casually describes himself as "a bottom feeder" with a specialization in "distressed inventory."

Kugler is president and co-owner of Distribution Video Audio Inc., a company that pulls in annual revenue of $20 million with a proud nickel-and-dime approach to fading and faded pop culture. Whether it's unwanted "Speed Racer" ball caps, unsold Danielle Steel novels or unappreciated David Hasselhoff albums, Kugler's company pays pennies and sells for dimes. If the firm had a motto, it would be "Buy low, sell low."

"It's true, one man's trash is another man's gold," Kugler said. "But we are not the graveyard. I'm like a heart surgeon -- we keep things alive longer. Or maybe we're more like the convalescence home right before the graveyard."

The last major Hollywood movie to be released on VHS was "A History of Violence" in 2006. By that point major retailers such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart were already well on their way to evicting all the VHS tapes from their shelves so the valuable real estate could go to the sleeker and smaller DVDs and, in more recent seasons, the latest upstart, Blu-ray discs. Kugler ended up buying back as much VHS inventory as he could from retailers, distributors and studios; he then sold more than 4 million VHS videotapes over the last two years.

Those tapes went to bargain-basement chains such as Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar, and Kugler's network of mom-and-pop clients and regional outlets, such as the Gabriel Bros. Stores in West Virginia or the Five Below chain in Pennsylvania. If you bought a Clint Eastwood movie at the Flying J Truck Stop in Saginaw, Mich., or a "Care Bears" tape at one of the H.E. Butts Grocery stores in Texas, Kugler's company probably put it there. He also sells to public libraries, military bases and cruise ships, although those clients now all pretty much want DVDs.

Kugler estimates that 2 million tapes are still sitting on shelves of his clients' stores across the country, but they are the last analog soldiers in the lost battle against the digital invasion. "I'm not sure a lot of people are going to miss VHS," he said, "but it's been good to us."

If you rewind back to the 1980s, VHS represented a remarkable turning point for the American consumer. For the first time, Hollywood's classics and its recent hits could be rented and watched at home.

"It was a sea change," says Leonard Maltin, the film critic and author who has written stacks of books to meet the consumer need for video recommendations. "Hollywood thought it would hurt movie ticket sales, but it didn't deter people from going to movies; in fact, it only increased their appetite for entertainment. Hollywood also thought it would just be a rental market, but then when someone had the idea of lowering the prices, the people wanted to own movies. They wanted libraries at home, and suddenly VHS was a huge part of our lives."

The format was easy to use (although fast-forwarding and rewinding to any particular spot was the worst new-tech irritant since the telephone busy signal) and, of course, the videocassette recorder and blank VHS tapes made it possible to catch up on any missed must-see TV, whether it was "Days of Our Lives" or "Monday Night Football." Hollywood found that movies also enjoyed a second opening weekend, as viewers throughout the country made Friday night trips to the rental store for new releases.

"I think in some ways it even pulled families together, if that doesn't sound too corny, because renting movies became such a part of the weekend," says Jim Henderson, one of the owners of Amoeba Music, the 45,000-square-foot merchant in Hollywood that sells pop culture in just about every format imaginable, including VHS. "It was also a great thing for film fans. You could educate yourself and go back to the well again and again. We're used to choice now, but that was the first time fans could watch what they wanted when they wanted."

Amoeba no longer buys VHS from distributors such as Distribution Video Audio. But customers bring in tapes every day to trade and sell. "We actually sell maybe 200 a day, almost all of them between $1 to $3," Henderson said. "Almost the same amount comes in as goes out."

A lot of those are the classic or foreign films that are not available on DVD, such as "The Magnificent Ambersons" or Gregory Nava's "El Norte," or vintage music videos by punk bands or new wave pioneers such as Black Flag or Siouxsie and the Banshees. Some older customers simply don't want to switch to DVD, others just like the bargain-basement price of the tapes.

But, Henderson said, unlike with vinyl records, no one seems to cling to VHS for romantic reasons.

"DVDs replaced VHS really fast compared to other format changes through the years," Henderson said. "VHS took too long to rewind, they were boxy and cumbersome, the picture was kind of flawed. The tape inside was delicate and just didn't hold up. DVD just blew it away."

It's true, the VHS tape never really had a chance once the DVD arrived in the late 1990s with all its shiny allure -- higher quality image, nimble navigation and all that extra content. After a robust run at the center of pop culture, VHS rentals were eclipsed by DVD in 2003. By the end of 2005, DVD sales were more than $22 billion and VHS was slumping badly but still viable enough to pull in $1.5 billion. Next year, that won't be the case.

Just before Halloween, JVC, the company that introduced the Video Home System format in 1977 in the United States, announced that it would no longer make stand-alone videocassette recorders. The electronic manufacturer still produces hybrid VHS-DVD players, but it's not clear how long that will last.

For a format that made Hollywood so much money, VHS leaves behind a shallow footprint in the movies themselves. There was "The Ring," a 2002 horror movie and its 2005 sequel, about a mysterious VHS tape that brings death to whoever watches it, but that's a sad valentine. This year Jack Black and Mos Def starred in "Be Kind Rewind," a loopy comedy that finds its center at a VHS rental store that is holding out against the DVD era, but the rebellion didn't go beyond the script -- the movie is available for rent or purchase on DVD and Blu-ray, but it was never released on VHS.

The format was also name-checked in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," the 2005 hit film that stars an unloved salesman at an electronics store; and even he has no room in his heart for the underdog format. "It's a dead technology," he explains to a customer. "It's like buying an eight-track player."

Kugler is one of the rare people who can stir up some nostalgia for the black, boxy tapes. His father bought Distribution Video Audio in 1988 and carved out a niche as an inventory supplier for the video rental stores that were popping up everywhere. His young son was interested in a different end of the entertainment business; the younger Kugler spent many afternoons in his teen years sneaking onto the Paramount Pictures studio lot and soaking it all in. While watching the cast at work on "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," he decided he wanted to become a filmmaker; soon, the kid who was always underfoot on the "Cheers" set even coaxed Ted Danson to appear in a two-minute film he made.

But life took Kugler on a less glamorous path. He started working at Distribution Video Audio in 1991 and in short order took the company to new heights by negotiating directly with studios to buy their overrun inventory.

The approach led the company beyond VHS, and soon Kugler's warehouses were filling up with CDs, books and merchandise like "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" wristwatches and "America's Next Top Model" T-shirts.

A casual observer might wonder how much shelf life those sorts of products could possibly have, but Kugler has moved hard to the Internet and says the "scavenger culture" mentality and sites such as Half.com, Amazon Marketplace and EBay have made it easier than ever to match narrow-niche and oddball customers with the products they want -- especially when it's priced to go at $2 or $3.

With some things, though, even Kugler the great salvager can't find a buyer no matter how low he goes. He took a loss on 50,000 copies of "Yo-Yo Man," a Smothers Brothers instructional video for the stringed toy. ("I'm not sure what I was thinking on that one," Kugler said.) And then there is that stash of VHS tapes that couldn't even earn a spot on the last shipment out of his warehouse: a few thousand copies of "The Man With the Screaming Brain," a 2005 horror movie about a mad scientist, a Bulgarian tycoon, a cab driver and some cranial misadventures. ("That one," Kugler said, "will be buried with us.")

The majority of his firm's business today is with big box retailers including Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Sears, where the company sets up displays of its discounted DVDs, such as "Superman Returns" and "Proof of Life," which are often priced at $10 or less. Plenty of customers see that price as an invitation to build up their DVD collections.

But Kugler, with a sly smile, offered a warning to consumers thinking of putting up shelving to handle their burgeoning libraries.

"The DVD will be obsolete in three or four years, no doubt about it. Everything will be Blu-ray," Kugler said, anticipating the next resident at his pop culture retirement home. "The days of the DVD are numbered. And that is good news for me."

Baby Lee
12-30-2008, 09:22 AM
Ha! My dad redid his av rack [the left channel of his amp frizzled] over Christmas, and the VHS did not make it back in. I asked him 'you're gonna lose your living room clock?'

blaise
12-30-2008, 09:28 AM
I still have a documentary about New York City made by Ric Burns on VHS. I love it but I don't know what to do with it. I don't have a VCR. I also have The Man With No Name Trilogy (Fistfull of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good the Bad and the Ugly) on VHS. I can't bear to throw them away so they sit there.
I still have some old audio cassettes for the same reason, A Tribe Called Quest, Leaders of the New School, DAS EFX, Run DMC. They just sit in my basement.

Demonpenz
12-30-2008, 09:30 AM
I have a zillion vhs' still in the wrapper I have when I worked at blockbuster, I have alot of dvd's I have never watched that I have from there too and that was 4 years ago

Lzen
12-30-2008, 09:41 AM
I need to get me one of those VHS to DVD recorders. I have some old VHS home videos that I need to save on a format that will still be usable years from now.

Oh, and I don't believe what he said about dvds being obsolete in 3 or 4 years. Not everyone is going to upgrade to Blue Ray. I think it will take much longer than 3 or 4 years. First, the price of the players really has to come down. Many people don't want to pay $200 and up for a BR player. Then the movies are still around $30 for new releases last I saw. That is still too high for many folks to do a BR collection.

Deberg_1990
12-30-2008, 10:01 AM
Oh, and I don't believe what he said about dvds being obsolete in 3 or 4 years. Not everyone is going to upgrade to Blue Ray. I think it will take much longer than 3 or 4 years. First, the price of the players really has to come down. Many people don't want to pay $200 and up for a BR player. Then the movies are still around $30 for new releases last I saw. That is still too high for many folks to do a BR collection.

Yea, i think he was exaggerrating a little bit.

The thing that will keep standard DVD around a while is:

1. Blue Ray players play standard DVD's.
2. DVD picture quality is good enough for most people. Especially if you have a smaller TV.

Deberg_1990
12-30-2008, 10:03 AM
I still have a documentary about New York City made by Ric Burns on VHS. I love it but I don't know what to do with it. I don't have a VCR. I also have The Man With No Name Trilogy (Fistfull of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good the Bad and the Ugly) on VHS. I can't bear to throw them away so they sit there.
I still have some old audio cassettes for the same reason, A Tribe Called Quest, Leaders of the New School, DAS EFX, Run DMC. They just sit in my basement.

Ive thrown out alot of my old VHS movies after i replaced them on DVD.

The quality really degrades over time.

I need to buy a VHS/DVD converter though. Since i have a few old Chiefs games from the early 90's on VHS.

Short Leash Hootie
12-30-2008, 10:03 AM
Yea, i think he was exaggerrating a little bit.

The thing that will keep standard DVD around a while is:

1. Blue Ray players play standard DVD's.
2. DVD picture quality is good enough for most people. Especially if you have a smaller TV.

but no one will have a smaller TV in a few years...

I saw a 42" 1080P Panasonic Viera PLASMA TV for $899 free shipping on newegg.com all last week.

In another year or two we'll all be buying 50" 1080P Plasma's for $600...

Lzen
12-30-2008, 10:07 AM
Yea, i think he was exaggerrating a little bit.

The thing that will keep standard DVD around a while is:

1. Blue Ray players play standard DVD's.
2. DVD picture quality is good enough for most people. Especially if you have a smaller TV.

#2 that you mentioned is another great point. I have an upconverting dvd player. While it does not look as good as the HD channels on my 42" LCD, it doesn't look half bad. Better than SD, for sure. I would love to have a Blue Ray player, but I am not willing to spend that kind of money for one.

Lzen
12-30-2008, 10:08 AM
but no one will have a smaller TV in a few years...

I saw a 42" 1080P Panasonic Viera PLASMA TV for $899 free shipping on newegg.com all last week.

In another year or two we'll all be buying 50" 1080P Plasma's for $600...

There are still a lot of people who would never spend that kind of money on a television.

Deberg_1990
12-30-2008, 10:10 AM
There are still a lot of people who would never spend that kind of money on a television.


Yep. i agree. There are still a ton of people buying those digital converter boxes for the cutover in a few weeks.

Short Leash Hootie
12-30-2008, 10:16 AM
There are still a lot of people who would never spend that kind of money on a television.

True but that means the 32" TV's will be that much cheaper...

I saw a pretty decent computer advertised through dell with a 20" flatscreen monitor for $299...2 GB RAM, Windows Vista, 250 GB hard drive...everything is going to be dirt cheap pretty soon.

Saulbadguy
12-30-2008, 10:26 AM
They are developing technology that will allow Blu-Rays to be played on a regular DVD player, in the old 480i/p format.

Frazod
12-30-2008, 10:34 AM
There are still a lot of people who would never spend that kind of money on a television.

I paid around $1,000 for a new 36" tube TV back in 2001. Only paid a couple of hundred more for a 46" 1080p LCD last year.

TrickyNicky
12-30-2008, 10:39 AM
As a formerly 13 year old kid with hairy palms, I thank you VCR format, for all the services rendered to the adult entertainment industry.

Demonpenz
12-30-2008, 10:45 AM
the overly big vhs box company thanks you as well

Short Leash Hootie
12-30-2008, 10:50 AM
I paid around $1,000 for a new 36" tube TV back in 2001. Only paid a couple of hundred more for a 46" 1080p LCD last year.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16889433002

Prices on LCD's are even more outrageously cheap as of late...you can surf that site and find a 50" 1080 LCD for $599 every once in a while...some weird brand but if you're not a gamer it shouldn't matter.

Deberg_1990
12-30-2008, 12:01 PM
As a formerly 13 year old kid with hairy palms, I thank you VCR format, for all the services rendered to the adult entertainment industry.

heh, i miss my Porkys/Zapped/My Tutor mix tape. ROFL

googlegoogle
12-30-2008, 02:12 PM
Our vhs player went kaput couple of months ago.

The tape transports wont move right and ruined a couple of tapes and the stupid tapes would get stuck in the door.


I hated VHS.

Historical mistake moving away from open reel which is easier to care for and the quality was better. Betamax was better too.

VHS was just bad.

Basileus777
12-30-2008, 02:21 PM
but no one will have a smaller TV in a few years...

I saw a 42" 1080P Panasonic Viera PLASMA TV for $899 free shipping on newegg.com all last week.

In another year or two we'll all be buying 50" 1080P Plasma's for $600...

50"? I don't but that. They'll all be 1080p capable though. But most people don't buy new TVs all that often. People will still be using SDTVs for quite a while yet. Blu Ray will eventually take over, but DVD still have many years left. DVDs will probably outsell Blu Rays for another 4 years or so, and survive much longer after Blu Ray surpasses it.

'Hamas' Jenkins
12-30-2008, 03:35 PM
I don't think BD will ever surpass DVD. I think it will end up as a far more successful Laserdisc, but it won't approach the market penetration that either VHS or DVD had/have. It will end up like a video version of the audio cassette--quite good, but not as successful as the LP or CD.

Ultra Peanut
12-30-2008, 05:14 PM
Winding down?

Baby Lee
12-30-2008, 05:20 PM
No need for Bluray until my 1080i/720p 60"er dies and I move up to 1080p.

Fruit Ninja
12-30-2008, 05:27 PM
Shit, i have a blu ray player and i use it on a 1080i tv and that shit looks amazing. I was shocked at how good the Dark Knight looked on it. Though, it looks better on my 1080p in the living room.

Miles
12-30-2008, 10:47 PM
No need for Bluray until my 1080i/720p 60"er dies and I move up to 1080p.

DTS and Dolbly lossless audio is a pretty nice upgrade if your receiver has a 5.1 analog input.

'Hamas' Jenkins
12-31-2008, 02:57 AM
DTS and Dolbly lossless audio is a pretty nice upgrade if your receiver has a 5.1 analog input.

As long as you have a BD player capable of internally decoding the signal and passing it as bitstream through the analog channels, yes.

FWIW, the Panasonic DMP BD-55K should be a receiver-saving device for anyone looking to move up.