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R.I.P. VHS — Really

2 Dec, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

The Black Friday weekend had lessons for us all. For example, Wal-Mart sales were up 6.3 percent, a good sign for the low-end retail holiday as long as consumers didn't spend it all in one weekend.

My lesson screamed from every corner, but it was the same from all of them: VHS is so, so — how would Jim Carrey put it? So-ho-ho-ho over. Dance on its grave over. Dump them before you have to pay a recycling charge over.

The rumored $12.99 DVD player did not materialize at Target, at least in my market. On the other hand, it did have a compact progressive scan model by Cyberhome with a remote control that looks like the cockpit of a blinkin' 747 for $35. Long's Drugs had a slimline player for $39.99 with a $15 rebate to bring it down to $25.

I talked to one of my friends over the weekend. He's not a particularly early adopter. Still, he commented at one point, “I think of VHS as the 8-track of movies now.” He's had a DVD player since last Christmas. The National Retail Federation said Monday DVD players are the top electronics gift this year, with 8.4 percent of shoppers saying they will buy one for a gift and another 7.3 percent planning to buy one for themselves.

I went to the flea market Sunday. This is a pretty good-sized market; it takes an hour and a half to walk it all on a fast day — which this was. There were only two stands selling more than one or two DVDs. One had old Hong Kong titles in bare bones editions for $5 each, and the other was a family stand selling off rental titles from what was probably their weekday business (I judged this from the copy depth and hand-numbered spot tags on each case); $7.99, or two for $11.99, three for $18.99. I noticed Dreamcatcher and Punch Drunk Love in the mix, and I didn't see that stand until late — it was clear they had sold plenty. The stand was still a beehive when I passed by.

On the other hand, VHS was at every other stand and not moving at any price. Not even the kidvid in vinyl keepsake cases was going anywhere. Little kids were looking at their parents quizzically when mom or dad pointed to a Barney title or cartoon on VHS.

Face it, folks, when kidvid is selling three for a dollar at every third-world fruit stand in a flea market serving a city of 200,000 and none of it is moving, it's time and past to get out.

DVD player prices are so low this year that there's no point in VHS any more. With DVD recorders down as well, anyone still keeping VHS is on borrowed time.

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