(Photo by Shutterstock/BearFotos)
September 20, 2022
It’s been said that there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Challenging, maybe. Difficult to execute, perhaps. Needs a little tweaking — don’t they all?
With these and other caveats in mind, let me share with you something I’ve been thinking about ever since I wrote that exhaustive two-part series on 25 years of digital entertainment in the March and April issues of Media Play News.
A museum dedicated to home entertainment, opening somewhere in the Los Angeles area in time for home video’s 50th anniversary in 2027.
It was in 1977 that an entrepreneur named Andre Blay licensed 50 movies from 20th Century Fox, including M*A*S*H and The French Connection, and released them on videocassette under his own Magnetic Video banner. To Hollywood’s surprise, sales boomed — and so did rentals, as savvy retailers brought the pricey cassettes and began renting them out for a dollar or two a night.
The VHS rental boom gave way to the DVD sales phenomenon, after which the business went digital – bringing us right up to the present, with streaming by far the dominant form of home media consumption, alongside legacy business models such as TVOD and the physical disc.
The Museum of Home Entertainment would celebrate all of this. I’ve already drawn up a list of potential exhibits in my mind, beginning with early attempts to bring movies into the home — before Blay, companies such as Blackhawk Films marketed vintage black-and-white features, mostly comedies, on 16mm, 8mm and Super 8 film.
From there, exhibits would focus on Blay and the explosive success of Magnetic Video; the VHS-Beta format war; the early video rental retail pioneers ; the battle over First Sale; early video labels such as Media Home Entertainment and Vestron; the direct-to-video phenomenon; the erotic thriller; Rentrak and studio attempts to share rental revenue; the rise and fall of Erol’s, National, Blockbuster, and the other national chains; Warren Lieberfarb and DVD; the sellthrough revolution, enabled by DVD and led by the mass merchants; the birth of Netflix as a disc-by-mail rental service; Redbox; the Blu-ray Disc/HD-DVD format war; the heyday of Blu-ray and early attempts at connectivity; first attempts at streaming; the streaming boom; and the shift toward ad-supported streaming.
The scale has yet to be determined. It could be as simple as repurposed space on the USC campus, administered by the university’s famed film school. Or, on the other extreme, it could be a grand stand-alone museum, run by a foundation, that could turn into a significant tourist draw – maybe not the Getty, but not Ripley’s, either.
So … there you have it. My big, fat idea, something I’ve been thinking about for a while and now want to throw out there to see what people think. Please share your thoughts or email me privately if this is something you might like to get involved with.
Who knows where this might lead?