VHS (Video Home System) may have been dead for most of us for many years but until now it hadn’t officially died. With the news that the last big supplier of VHS tapes is ditching the format, that death can now be officially announced. R.I.P. VHS.
What the VHS video format did for movies cannot be understated, both good and bad. It gave people the power to watch movies at home, affecting theater sales terribly, but also giving studios a second bite at the profit cherry thanks to rental and buying markets for their wares. It also brought movie piracy into the mainstream, a business that is bigger now than ever thanks to the Internet.
VHS came to prominence in the 1980s after originally launching in 1976. After a bloody battle with the rival Betamax format – a battle with many parallels to the recent Blu-ray vs DVD format war – VHS became an integral fixture in most people’s homes. The humble videotape not only allowed the viewing of the latest Hollywood blockbuster but also gave people the opportunity to record programs off the TV for the first time.
But now, according to The Los Angeles Times‘ Ryan J. Kugler, the last major supplier of VHS videotapes, is ditching the format in favor of DVD, effectively killing the format for good. There will, of course, still be a market for the tapes amongst collectors and people too far behind the times to have even upgraded to DVD let alone Blu-ray, but that’s all that’s left for this once great format.
Hollywood ditched VHS back in 2006 when A History of Violence became the last big movie to be released on the format. But Kugler says his Distribution Video Audio Inc. company managed to sell over four million videotapes in the last two years, proving there was still a demand, however much it was shrinking.
The world has, of course, now moved on a great deal. DVD is now the format of choice for most but even that looks outdated compared to Blu-ray. And both physical formats probably face their toughest test from the emergence of digital downloads as a true force in the movie industry.
Kugler himself may be a fan of old formats but he thinks even DVD has a limited life left, stating that “the DVD will be obsolete in three or four years, no doubt about it. Everything will be Blu-ray. The days of the DVD are numbered. And that is good news for me.”
Whether that prediction rings true or not remains to be seen, but one format is now officially dead. Will VHS be missed? Not when compared to what we now have, with videos being brittle, clunky, and rather user-unfriendly. But they ushered in a new era that was important to get to where we are today. And for that reason, the death of VHS is rather sad. Almost as sad as the people still using it.