Bernard Bennetto's Video Pages - Foreward
FILM AS A DISPOSABLE ITEM
Originally, the idea of going to the cinema twice to see a movie was regarded with amusement and/or amazement by most folks. This idiosyncrasy might well have been tolerated and the possibility considered if the movie that one was seeking to see again was regarded as a true classic. Films such as 'Citizen Kane' and 'The Searchers' were considered to yield repeated study. 'Gone with the Wind' was released in a variety of formats over its long history. Walt Disney films were normally reprised for the new generation and their forebears on a seven year cycle. On the whole, however, a film was regarded as a disposable item and unlikely to get a second release. The specialist London cinemas, the London based and the provincial National Film Theatre, the provincial 'art house cinemas' , the local network of film clubs and societies and the television showings (normally after a gap of five years) catered for and appealed to this need. Despite these opportunities, there was no way in which the serious and the more casual movie lovers could see the well loved films for a second or third time. In fact, due to the absence of the multi-screens and the extremely limited release of certain films, this viewing might well have been for the very first time.
FILM AS A MARKETABLE ITEM
The attitude of the public, in general, would appear to have seriously and dramatically shifted. The growth in video retail sales has been dramatic. In the mid to late eighties, according to the British Film Institute, the rental, retail and blank video cassette market was worth £500 million. Of that total, a tenth represented retail 'sell-through' sales. Today, the total market has more than doubled and is worth £1.2 billion. However, retail sales are now worth £450 million, represent over a third of the market and they are only just trailing the video rental market. Either, people are watching movies more than once or they are buying movies that they think they will watch more than once (irrespective of whether they do so or not).
These retail sales do not necessarily or wholly include cinema releases. The sales also cover the TV program repeats such as Mr Bean, the health tapes such as the Conley body programme and the Fonda workouts, the potentially prurient sex aid tapes and the Madonna and Minogue pop video tapes. However, the movie sales are the major element. The top selling film 'Fantasia' achieved sales of over three million. The film 'Home alone' has achieved sales of three quarters of a million and 'Terminator 2 - Judgement Day' is now reported to have sold a quarter of a million copies. Other less worthy films such as the 'Die Hard' and the 'Lethal Weapon' trilogies have also sold in hundreds of thousands.
REASONS FOR THE CHANGE
Such action films are highly enjoyable but hardly to be classified as worthy of serious study. There are other titles however. Childrens films, such as Disney's 'Robin Hood' and 'Dumbo' are also selling well (in fact, children seem to be able to repeatedly watch certain films ad nauseam and may well partly account for the birth of this new 'purchasing' phenonemon). Musicals such as 'The Sound of Music' sell extremely well as do dated melodramas such as 'The Quiet Man'. There has been a major change in purchasing and, potentially, in viewing habits.
It is partly the 'action', 'horror' and 'science fiction' genre of films which has spurned a new form of high value collecting. They account for the high prices paid for the less worthy films such as 'The Exorcist', 'Straw Dogs' and 'The Terminator'. However, the melodrama, comedy and thriller drama genres have contributed to the more ardent collection of the more worthy, accepted classics such as the Bogart, Hepburn and Davis 'starring' titles and the Hitchcock, Brooks and Scorcese 'directing' titles. The great and not so great musicals and the films of Woody Allen are also becoming the more conventional collectors items and straddling these two extremes of the 'less worthy' and 'worthy' are the likes of the Eastwood and the Bond movies.
There are now a serious body of collectors who are building significant collections of video releases. There are certain of these video releases which are changing hands at significant sums of money. However, because so little is known about the early video releases, I see these pages as necessary so that the serious collector can protect his or her interests.
People who have paid over £50 for and acquired a large, soft box copy of the Warner Home Video of 'Casablanca' or 'Annie Hall' have acquired a desirable title but they may have failed to realise that they do not possess a true 'first edition' since the equivalent of the first edition was released by Intervision in a cardboard slip case. There are now a significant number of people who have paid probably more than £100 for a copy of 'The Exorcist' and who have bought it incomplete. Usually it has been acquired without the early Warner Brothers insert and, less seriously, it is housed in a mismatching box. Such a copy could not and should not be offered at auction as 'complete' and therefore may be unlikely to realise the original price that was paid for it.
Serious video collectors must also protect themselves from the myths which have arisen about certain videos. The early uncertified release of 'The Blues Brothers' is regarded as running for 133 minutes ie. six minutes longer than the current release. In fact, this is not the case as anyone who has acquired and timed it will find out. The film is the full theatrical release which, however, runs for 127 minutes. This is due to the vagaries of celluloid to tape transcription and is the normal case when films are tranferred video. The packaging, like many early packages, bears an uncorrected time.
A VIDEO FIRST EDITION
The early video releases are now analogous to first editions in book publishing terms but the terminology and standards of book publishing and collecting are inappropriate when applied to video releases. There are analogies. Dealer and sell through boxes are analogous to hard and soft back editions and an ex-rental or second hand video without a reasonably intact and cared for jacket is as undesirable to the collector as the first edition of a book without a jacket. While there are such analogies, there are serious differences however. The video 'package' consists of many more components and the format of the video 'package' can vary quite considerably. Each release of a movie by a particular distributor may in fact constitute the equivalent of a new edition due to an alteration to its running time or format. Similarly, the video distributors do distribute the equivalent of 'proof' or 'review' copies to dealers which are known as time coded versions but they are unlikely to be available in their full 'release' packaging. So, even here there are differences.
THE VIDEO PAGES
A number of reference books have now appeared which claim to specifically consider pre-recorded films which are available on video. These are books, such as Halliwell and Maltin, which originally listed movies, their credits and a brief review but which have now been extended to include details of whther they are available on video. Such books serve a limited purpose and merely identify their distributors (see bibliography section).
No publication has yet appeared which will appeal to the growth in the popularity of collecting videos or which will treat it to the same professional treatment enjoyed by the collector of modern first editions. Thes pages are an attempt to define for the video 'package' an agreed terminology and a set of guidelines and standards such as those which are current for the collector of modern first editions and to identify those videos and the associated packages which are now proving highly collectable and, hence, becoming highly valuable.
It will attempt to combine parallel guidelines and standards for video collection to those which are laid down and described for book collecting and, ultimately, to provide an indication of values for a range of collectible videos similar to those which are provided by Joseph Connolly in 'Modern First Editions - Their Value to Collectors'. It also attempts to provide a certain amount of additional technical detail on videos and their distributors which has hitherto been unavailable in a single publication.
Last Updated: 30th July 1996
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© Bernard W Bennetto 1996 - 1997