Talk about the opposite of a Hollywood ending.
VHS tapes, once regarded as a breakthrough medium for consumers and a major disruptor of the entertainment industry, have all but disappeared from the home video market. By the turn of the 21st century, major retailers and rental outlets had started to embrace a new medium — the DVD — thereby sounding the (surround-sound) death knell for VHS.
Major film distributors continued to produce and sell VHS tapes for several years alongside DVDs. But in the mid-2000s, most began to abandon the format, and little by little, fewer VHS titles were being produced.
Then, in 2006, David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence” was released on VHS, marking what is widely believed to be the last instance of a major motion picture to be released in that format, according to a 2008 report from the Los Angeles Times.
But while “A History of Violence” is likely the last major film to be committed to VHS for the retail video market, some Disney enthusiasts claim that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment continued to produce VHS tapes exclusively for members of its Disney Movie Club, citing a late-2006 release of “Cars” as the last VHS sent to members. Representatives for the Disney Movie Club and ShopDisney could not confirm which VHS titles were the last sent to members of the Disney Movie Club, nor when they were released.
In any case, DVDs had already become the medium of choice for most home-movie enthusiasts well before “A History of Violence” hit theaters. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t strong demand for VHS to this day, albeit in the collectors’ market.
“Everybody in the world used VHS. They were played all over the planet,” said Joe Maddalena, the executive vice president of Texas-based Heritage Auctions, ahead of the auction house’s first-ever VHS-only auction this month.
Maddalena warned, however, that VHS collectors are on the forefront of a “brand-new hobby,” so it’s unclear which titles, specifically, will become some of the most sought-after. As it currently stands, early activity from collectors seems to indicate interest in first-edition copies of films released in the ‘80s, at the height of the VHS-rental boom. But that could change in coming years, when tapes of these type become rarer. Collectors may soon start to covet special-edition VHS releases, or more obscure B-movies, or, possibly, even some of the last VHS tapes to be printed, like “A History of Violence.”
“We’re just not at that stage of the hobby yet,” Maddalena told Nexstar. “You really need the auction market to come along … to find out where it’s at.”