Thursday, March 25, 2004
DVD killed the videotape
By RAY WEISS
NEWS-JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
Michael Becker’s movie collection would make a Hollywood director envious.
Robert Blenheim holds up five DVD's against five video tapes from his extensive collection of VHS tapes in his movie library in his Daytona Beach home Friday night, March 12, 2004. Blenheim is working on converting his collection to DVD's, but it will take a while. (Photo: News-Journal/Kelly Jordan)
Hundreds of videotapes, sorted by title in alphabetical order, pack a corner wall in the entertainment room of his Ormond Beach home.
Many of the tapes have up to five films recorded on them.
“I collect Woody Allen, Bette Davis, Marx Brothers, Tracy and Hepburn, and Academy Award winners,” said Becker, an attorney and lifelong film buff. “We’ve looked into converting them to DVDs.”
Like an aging star from Becker’s collection, the end is near for VHS. These days, a sexier performer on the technological stage, DVD, is receiving the accolades and sales, creating a nationwide shift in marketing.
Videotapes are becoming more difficult to rent or buy as stores limit shelf and floor space for what is becoming an obsolete form of home entertainment.
Almost six in every 10 American households now own a DVD player, which was launched in 1997. Total DVD revenue last year reached $17.5 billion, which included $5.4 billion in rentals, according to Adams Media Research, a market-tracking firm.
“The fourth quarter of 2002 is the point that DVD overtook VHS,” said Blake Lugash, a spokesman for Blockbuster Corp. “We still carry, and will continue to carry VHS, as long as there’s market interest.”
But last year, he said, 57 percent of Blockbuster’s national rental revenue came from DVDs, compared with 32 percent from VHS. The remainder was from video games.
Lugash said the DVD format offers viewers better quality images and sound; fast, random access; and a product that won’t wear out.
Karen Burk, a corporate spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said the public’s demand for DVDs is resulting in the decreasing supply of VHS movies in stores.
“We listen and work with buyers, and get on shelves what customers want,” she said. “The products in stores reflect what customers in a community are requesting.”
Burk said Wal-Mart would continue to offer videotapes, “as long as customers are still looking for that.”
Seth Martin, the manager of Video Biz in Ormond Beach, said one or two customers a week request a VHS movie.
“We’ve been all DVD since Jan. 1. The demand wasn’t there for DVD, and the cost was greater. It costs us $50 to carry one. It’s $18 on average for a DVD,” he said of what the family-owned store pays a distributor. “But we still have VHS for kids. A lot of families have VCRs in kids’ rooms.”
Martin said many new movies are no longer even offered on VHS. But he isn’t complaining, since many more copies of the smaller-sized DVDs can be stacked on store shelves.
“It started to change at the start of 2003,” he said of the trend toward DVDs. “It happened really quick. There wasn’t an in-between time.”
Baby boomers such as the 52-year-old Becker have been down this technological road before when compact discs replaced vinyl albums and cassettes. So in classic you-better-join-them-if-you-can’t-beat-them fashion, he already owns a DVD player, a gift from a friend, and about 100 movies.
“It’s for sure they’ll come out with something else after this,” he said, grinning. “It’s unfortunate for me, but that’s technology.”
Robert Blenheim, 57, of Daytona Beach, owns more than 2,000 videotapes and 500 DVDs. He said he relishes the new format, as a film collector and former film-appreciation teacher, since DVDs sometimes offer a director’s comments and the uncut version of a movie.
“It’s a dream for a film purist,” he said. “There’s such a quality difference.”
Still, the lack of affordable DVD recorders on the market hasn’t eliminated the need to keep a VCR plugged in for now.
“But for rentals, the death knell has sounded,” he said.
Talk About It
So, what are you going to do with your piles of videotape?