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Studios Are Blowing Out VHS At Pre-Viewed Prices

20 Feb, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I know the VHS cassette is on its way out, with several studios either blowing out catalog titles at dump-bin prices or trimming back the availability of certain titles on cassette once they hit DVD.

But I had no idea how drastic the exodus was until I walked by the lunchroom trash can at our posh offices in Santa Ana and spied something that caught my eye.

There, on the back of editor Kurt Indvik's frozen Stouffer's entr?e box — Salisbury steak in gravy with grilled onions and macaroni and cheese, if you're interested in a journalist's eating habits — is a giant ad for free MGM movies.

Buy six Stouffer's products and, for just $1.99 shipping and handling, you can “have one of these MGM classics delivered to your door,” the ad proclaims. Consumers can choose from Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, The Magnificent Seven, The Graduate and When Harry Met Sally.

We're not talking crap here — this is top-quality, first-class catalog stuff, titles that still fetch full price on DVD.

But the videocassettes, well, clearly, they're no longer worth beans (although maybe they are; I'll have to watch Kurt's future lunch picks before I can reach a final verdict on that).

This makes me wonder how long the videocassette will be around. The vinyl LP disappeared virtually overnight, although many electronics dealers still carry turntables and needles and some small labels still release music on the notorious 12-inch “licorice pizza,” as one record chain popular in the 1970s was called.

With sales of new releases increasingly tilted in DVD's favor — most big releases now sell 75 percent or more of their total units on disc — the videocassette's days are clearly numbered. And with DVD players selling for as little as $39 and the proliferation of computers with DVD drives, and the sweeping success of Sony's DVD-playing PlayStation 2, the proverbial writing's on the wall.

I have recently cleared my house of virtually every videocassette I own, with the exception of 1) Disney's infamous Little Mermaid cassette with the castle tower that looks strangely phallic, an artist's trick the company has steadfastly denied; 2) Mondo Cane, a bizarre video of oddities from around the world; and 3) a handful of schlock movies like Undercover Angel that I keep around to sate my desire for all things cheesy.

Even my 7-year-old, Justin, handed over his entire videocassette collection to younger brother Conner — who uses them as building blocks.

Mark my words — by the end of this year, at least one major studio will no longer be releasing anything on videocassette.

If I'm wrong — and you can hold me to this — I'll buy Kurt some real lunch.

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