Home video

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

Some home video users have a collection of prerecorded media, such as movies, on DVDs. DVDs are only one of a number of ways of viewing home video.

Home video is recorded media sold or rented for home viewing.[1] The term originates from the VHS and Betamax era, when the predominant medium was videotapes, but has carried over to optical disc formats such as DVD and Blu-ray. In a different usage, "home video" refers to amateur video recordings, also known as home movies.[2]

Released in 1978, LaserDisc (LD) is another home video format, which never managed to gain widespread use on North American and European retail markets due to high cost of the players and their inability to record TV programs (unlike the VHS), although it retained some popularity among videophiles and film enthusiasts during its lifespan; the format had greater prevalence in some regions of Southeast Asia such as Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia where it was better supported. Film titles were released in LD format until 2001, production of LD players ceased in 2009.[3]

The home video business distributes films, television series, telefilms and other audiovisual media to the public in the form of videos in various formats, either bought or rented and then watched privately in purchasers' homes. Most theatrically released films are now[when?] released on digital media (both optical and download-based), replacing the largely obsolete videotape medium. As of 2006, the Video CD format remained popular in Asia.[needs update] DVDs have been gradually losing popularity since the late 2010s and early 2020s, when streaming media became mainstream for the audiences, with most media consumers in urban areas globally having domestic Internet access.[a]


As early as 1906, various film entrepreneurs began to consider the business potential of home viewing of films, and in 1912, both Edison and Pathé started selling film projectors for home use.[5] Because making release prints was (and still is) very expensive (As of  2005, the cost of making a release print was still at least $1,000),[6] early projector owners rented films by mail from the projector manufacturers.[5] Edison's business model was fundamentally flawed because his company had started with phonographs and did not differentiate home viewing from home listening.[5] Edison ended his company's home viewing business in 1914; Pathé remained active in home viewing business somewhat longer, exiting at some point during World War I.[5]

After the quick failures of these early attempts at home viewing, most feature films were essentially inaccessible to the public after their original theatrical runs.[7] For most of the 20th century, the idea that ordinary consumers could own copies of films and watch them at their convenience in their own homes "was beyond the grasp of reasonable expectations."[8] Some very popular films were given occasional theatrical re-releases in urban revival houses and the screening rooms of a few archives and museums.[citation needed] Beginning in the 1950s, most could be expected to be broadcast on television, eventually.[citation needed] During this era, television programs normally could only be viewed at the time of broadcast. Viewers were accustomed to the fact that there was no easy way to record television shows at home and watch them whenever desired.[citation needed]

In 1924, Kodak invented 16 mm film, which became popular for home use,[5] and then later developed 8 mm film.[9] After that point, the public could purchase a film projector for one of those film formats and rent or buy home-use prints of some cartoons, short comedies, and brief "highlights" reels edited from feature films.[citation needed] The Super 8 film format, introduced in 1965,[10] was marketed for making home movies, but it also boosted the popularity of show-at-home films.[citation needed] Eventually, longer, edited-down versions of feature films were issued, which increasingly came in color and with a magnetic soundtrack,[citation needed] but in comparison to modern[specify] technologies, film projection was still quite expensive and difficult to use.[9] As a result, home viewing of films remained limited to a small community of dedicated hobbyists willing and able to invest large amounts of money in projectors, screens, and film prints,[9] and it therefore made little revenue for film companies.[5]

In 1956, Ampex pioneered the first commercially practical videotape recording system.[9] The Ampex system, though, used reel-to-reel tape and physically bulky equipment not suitable for home use.[9]

In the mid-1970s, videotape became the first truly practical home-video format with the development of videocassettes, which were far easier to use than tape reels. The Betamax and VHS home videocassette formats were introduced, respectively, in 1975 and 1976,[11] but several more years and significant reductions in the prices of both equipment and videocassettes were needed before both formats started to become widespread in households.[citation needed]

The first company to duplicate and distribute feature films from major film studios on home video was Magnetic Video.[12] Magnetic Video was established in 1968 as an audio and video duplication service for professional audio and television corporations in Farmington Hills, Michigan.[citation needed] After Betamax was launched in the United States in 1976, Magnetic Video chief executive Andre Blay wrote letters to all the major film studios offering to license the rights to their films.[12] Near the end of 1977, Magnetic Video entered into a first-of-its-kind deal with 20th Century Fox.[12] Magnetic Video agreed to pay Fox a royalty of $7.50 per unit sold and a guaranteed annual minimum payment of $500,000 in exchange for nonexclusive rights to 50 films, which had to be at least two years old and had already been broadcast on network television.[12]

Home video was born, initially, as a rental business.[13] Film studios and video distributors assumed that the overwhelming majority of consumers would not want to buy prerecorded videocassettes, but would merely rent them. They felt that virtually all sales of videocassettes would be to video rental stores and set prices accordingly.[14] According to Douglas Gomery, studio executives thought that the handful of consumers actually interested in purchasing videocassettes in order to watch them again and again would be similar to the small community of film buffs who for decades had willingly paid hundreds of dollars to purchase release prints.[15] Therefore, in 1977, Magnetic Video originally priced its videocassettes at $50 to $70 each—a princely sum at a time when the average price of an American movie ticket was $2.23—and sold them only to wholesalers capable of handling a minimum order of $8,000.[15] With the growth of rental market, Fox bought Magnetic Video in 1978 and turned the company into its home video division.[16]

A feature film is viewed on a home screen.

The home video market grew rapidly along with the widespread acquisition of affordable videocassette recorders by the majority of households during the 1980s. For example, in 1978, total number of VCRs purchased to date at wholesale in the United States was only 402,000, the average wholesale price of a VCR was $811, and the percentage of television-owning households with a VCR was unknown but probably just above zero.[17] By 1992, the respective numbers for each of these categories were 105,502,000, $239, and 75.6%.[17]

During the 1980s, video rental stores became a popular way to watch home video. Video rental stores are physical retail businesses that rent home videos such as movies and prerecorded TV shows (sometimes also selling other media, such as video game copies on disc). Typically, a rental shop conducts business with customers under conditions and terms agreed upon in a rental agreement or contract, which may be implied, explicit, or written. Many video rental stores also sell previously viewed movies and/or new unopened movies. In the 1980s, video rental stores rented films in both the VHS and Betamax formats, although most stores stopped using Betamax tapes when VHS won the format war late in the decade. The shift to home viewing radically changed revenue streams for film companies, because home renting provided an additional window of time in which a film could make money. In some cases, films that performed only modestly in their theater releases went on to sell significantly well in the rental market (e.g., cult films).[citation needed]

Movie boxes on display at a video rental store

During the 1980s, video distributors gradually realized that many consumers did want to build their own video libraries, and not just rent, if the price was right. Rather than sell a few thousand units at a wholesale price of $70 into the rental channel, video distributors could sell hundreds of thousands of units at a wholesale price of $15-20 into the retail "sell-through" channel.[18]

The "ultimate accelerant" for the rise of the "sell-through" home video market was the development of children's home video.[19] The pre-1980s conventional wisdom that consumers had no interest in watching the same films again and again at home turned out to be entirely wrong with respect to children. Many harried parents discovered that it was a good investment to pay $20 to purchase a videocassette that could reliably keep their children riveted to the television screen for over an hour—and not just one time, but many, many times.[19] The Walt Disney Company recognized that its flagship animation studio's family-friendly films were superbly positioned to conquer the home video market, and through its home video division, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, the company did just that during the 1980s and 1990s.[19] This spectacular success "catapulted the head of Disney's video division, Bill Mechanic, into executive stardom."[20] In 1994, Mechanic left Disney to become head of Fox Filmed Entertainment. Another executive, Bob Chapek, would later ascend through the ranks of Disney's home video division to become chief executive officer of the entire company in 2020, and for that reason (before his sudden 2022 departure) was called "the home entertainment industry's single biggest success story."[21]

Special-interest video production[edit]

Until the mid-1980s, home video was dominated by feature film theatrical releases such as The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, and Casablanca from major film studios. At that time, not many people owned a VCR, and those who did tended to rent rather than buy videos.[citation needed] The late 1980s saw the emergence of a great many small companies which specialized in producing special-interest home videos, also known as "nontheatrical programming" and "alternative programming". These new video programs differed radically from earlier forms of video content in that they were never intended for theatrical exhibition nor television broadcasting. They were created specifically for niche audiences in the so-called "sell-through" channel, to be purchased at retail or ordered directly by consumers and viewed exclusively as home videos.[citation needed] It was pointed out at the time that[22]

[L]imitations within the video marketplace may be gone tomorrow. More people are finding innovative ways to create visually stimulating entertainment and information for the video tape player... Like contemporary book publishing, you can produce and distribute yourself to very narrow markets or seek broad-based distributors for mass-oriented appeal.

Special-interest video increased to larger audiences the number of topics, including "...dog handling videos, back pain videos and cooking videos", which were not previously thought of as marketable. Next, even "golf and skiing tapes* started selling. Contemporary sources noted, "new technology has changed the territory" of the home video market.[23]

Decline of videotape and popularization of disks[edit]

By the mid 2000s, home video purchasers moved away from videotapes, increasingly preferring DVDs. Pictured is a cart of used videotape movies on sale at a used-goods market in 2004.

In the early 2000s, VHS gradually began to be displaced by DVD. The DVD format has several advantages over VHS. A DVD consists of a single disc, which is spun at high speed, while VHS videocassettes had several moving parts that were far more vulnerable to breaking down under heavy wear and tear. Each time a VHS cassette was played, the magnetic tape inside had to be pulled out and wrapped around the inclined drum head inside the player. While a VHS tape can be erased if it is exposed to a rapidly changing magnetic field of sufficient strength, DVDs and other optical discs are not affected by magnetic fields. The relative mechanical simplicity and durability of DVD compared to the fragility of VHS made DVDs a far better format from a rental store's perspective.

Though DVDs do not have the problems of videocassettes, such as breakage of the tape or the cassette mechanism, they can still be damaged by scratches. Another advantage from the perspective of video rental stores is that DVDs are physically much smaller, so they take less space to store. DVDs also offer a number of advantages for the viewer: DVDs can support both standard 4:3 and widescreen 16:9 screen-aspect ratios, and can provide twice the video resolution of VHS. Skipping ahead to the end is much easier and faster with a DVD than with a VHS tape (which has to be rewound). DVDs can have interactive menus, multiple language tracks, audio commentaries, closed captioning, and subtitling (with the option of turning the subtitles on or off, or selecting subtitles in several languages). Moreover, a DVD can be played on a computer.

Due to all these advantages, by the mid 2000s, DVDs had become the dominant form of prerecorded video movies in both the rental film and new movie markets. In the late 2000s, stores began selling Blu-ray discs, a format that supports high definition.

Early UHD Blu-ray release at Best Buy: A UHD Blu-ray disc player was also released.

Blu-ray is a digital optical disc data storage format, designed to supersede the DVD format, and is capable of storing several hours of video in high definition (HDTV 720p and 1080p). The main application of Blu-ray is as a medium for video material such as feature films and for the physical distribution of video games. The plastic disc is the same size as DVDs and compact discs.[24]

Blu-ray was officially released on June 20, 2006, beginning the high-definition optical disc format war, in which Blu-ray Disc competed against the HD DVD format. Toshiba, the main company supporting HD DVD, conceded in February 2008.[25] Blu-ray has competition from video on demand (VOD) and the continued sale of DVDs.[26] As of January 2016, 44% of U.S. broadband households had a Blu-ray player.[27]

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, though, people continued to use VCRs to record over-the-air TV shows, because they could not make home recordings onto DVDs. This problem with DVD was resolved in the late 2000s, when inexpensive DVD recorders and other digital video recorders (DVRs) – which record shows onto a hard disk or flash storage – became available to purchase and rent.

Despite the mainstream dominance of DVD, VHS continued to be used, albeit less frequently, throughout the 2000s; decline in VHS use continued during the 2010s. The switch to DVD initially led to mass-selling of used VHS videocassettes, which were available at used-goods stores, typically for a much lower price than the equivalent film on a used DVD.[citation needed] In July 2016, the last known manufacturer of VCRs, Funai, announced that it was ceasing VCR production.[28]

Transition from disk-based viewing to a streaming culture[edit]

One of streaming's largest impacts was on DVD, which has become less popular with the mass popularization of online streaming of media. Media streaming's popularization caused many DVD rental companies, such as Blockbuster, to go out of business. In July 2015, The New York Times published an article about Netflix's DVD-by-mail services. It stated that Netflix was continuing their DVD services with 5.3 million subscribers, which was a significant decrease from the previous year, but their streaming services had 65 million members.[29]

Netflix's primary business is its subscription-based streaming service, which offers online streaming of a library of films and television programs, including those produced in-house.[30] As of April 2019, Netflix had over 148 million paid subscriptions worldwide, including 60 million in the United States, and over 154 million subscriptions total, including free trials.[31] It is available worldwide except in mainland China (due to local restrictions), Syria, North Korea, and Crimea (due to U.S. sanctions). The company also has offices in India, the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea.[32] Netflix is a member of the Motion Picture Association.[33] Netflix began producing media itself in 2012 and since then took more of an active role as producer and distributor for both films and television series.

Following the launch of various streaming services during the early 2020s, in particular those operated by the major Hollywood studios, home video continued to decline. One of the most prominent examples of this effect was with Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment which, following the launch of Disney+ in 2019 and its international expansion in the following years, began to discontinue physical distribution entirely in certain regions such as Latin America, Asia (excluding Japan), Australia, New Zealand,[34] Portugal and Hungary, or to outsource its activities to other regional distributors (like Divisa Home Video for Spain, Eagle Pictures for Italy, or Leonine Studios for Germany.[35]

Time gap between theatrical and home video release[edit]

A time period is usually required to elapse between theatrical release and availability on home video to encourage movie theater patronage and discourage copyright infringement. Home-video releases originally followed five to six months after theatrical release, but since the late 2000s, most films have begun being distributed on video after three to four months. As of 2019, most major theater chains mandate an exclusivity window of 90 days before home-video release, and 74–76 days before electronic sell-through.[36] Christmas and other holiday-related movies are sometimes not released on home video until the following year, when the holiday occurs again.[37] Major studios have made films available for rental during their theatrical window on high-end services that charge upwards of $500 per rental and use proprietary hardware.[38]

Exceptions to the rule include the Steven Soderbergh film Bubble, which was released in 2006 to theaters, cable television, and DVD only a few days apart.[39] Netflix has released some of its films, such as Roma and The Irishman, in limited theatrical release followed by streaming availability after less than 30 days.[36]

Television programs[edit]

Many television programs are now also available in complete seasons on DVD. It has become popular practice for discontinued TV shows to be released to DVD one season at a time every few months and active shows to be released on DVD after the end of each season. Prior to the television DVDs, most television shows were only viewable in syndication, on limited "best of" VHS releases of selected episodes or released slowly in volumes with only two or three episodes per tape. These copyrighted movies and programs generally have legal restrictions on them preventing them from, among other things, being shown in public venues, shown to other people for money, or copied for other than fair use purposes (although such ability is limited by some jurisdictions and media formats – see below).[citation needed]


After the passage of the Video Recordings (Labelling) Act of 1985 in the United Kingdom, videotapes and other video recordings without a certification symbol from the British Board of Film Classification on their covers – or on the tapes themselves – were no longer allowed to be sold or displayed by rental shops.[40] These tapes are called "Pre-Certs" (i.e. Pre-certification tapes). Recently these tapes have generated a cult following, due to their collectability.[citation needed]

Best DVD/Blu-ray award[edit]

Since 2004, the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival bestows annually its DVD Jury award in Best DVD/Blu-ray category (also known as "Peter von Bagh Award") to critically acclaimed films made no earlier than 30 years before the festival's year and released on those home media formats within the past year of the festival's opening.[41][42][43][44][45][46][47]

Year Best DVD Company Best Blu-ray Company
2004 "Pier Paolo Pasolini - Les Années 60" Carlotta Films N/A
2005 "Alexandre Medvedkine" Arte N/A
2006 Entuziazm Österreichisches Filmmuseum N/A
2007 "Ernst Lubitsch Collection" Transit Film-Murnau Stiftung N/A
2008 L'argent
The Threepenny Opera
Carlotta Films
The Criterion Collection
2009 "Joris Ivens Wereldcineast" European Foundation Joris Ivens N/A
2010 "By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume Two" The Criterion Collection La Rosa di Bagdad [Mention] Cinecittà Luce
2011 "Segundo de Chomón 1903 – 1912" Filmoteca de Catalunya and Cameo Media s.l. "America Lost and Found: The BBS Story" [Mention] The Criterion Collection
2012 "The Complete Humphrey Jennings Volume 2: Fires Were Started" British Film Institute "A Hollis Frampton Odyssey" The Criterion Collection
2013 Gli ultimi La Cineteca del Friuli Lonesome The Criterion Collection
2014 "Džim Švantė (Sol' Svanetii) & Gvozd' v sapoge" Edition Filmmuseum Underground British Film Institute
2015 "The House of Mystery (La Maison du mystère)" Flicker Alley, LLC
The Blackhawk Films Collection
"The Connection: Project Shirley, Volume One"
"Portrait of Jason: Project Shirley, Volume Two"
"Ornette: Made in America: Project Shirley, Volume 3"
Milestone Film & Video
2016 "Frederick Wiseman Intégrale Vol. 1" Blaq Out N/A
2017 The Salvation Hunters Edition Filmmuseum N/A
2018 "Arne Sucksdorff: Samlade Verk" Studio S Entertainment N/A
2019 Non contate su di noi Penny Video
Cineteca Nazionale
2020 Fragment of an Empire Flicker Alley, LLC N/A
2021 La Roue Pathé Films N/A
2022 Häxan Potemkine Film N/A
2023 Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project No. 4 The Criterion Collection N/A

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to 2019 data, globally about 72% of households in urban areas have Internet access at home, for rural areas that figure is 38%.[4]


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