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Video Veteran Mel Harris Dies

12 Sep, 2008 By: Billy Gil

Mel Harris, a former executive at Paramount and Sony Pictures who helped usher in the era of home video, has died. He was 65.

The Los Angeles Times reported Harris, a resident of Malibu, Calif., died of cancer Sept. 6 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to his son, Chad.

Harris joined Paramount in 1977 and later became president of Paramount Video and later of Paramount Television Group. While there Harris was a proponent of selling videocassettes directly to the public, according to the Times.

As reported by Video Store Magazine (which later became Home Media Magazine), at the first-ever VSDA convention, held in Dallas, in 1982, Harris revealed Paramount would sell Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan for $39.95. At the time, prices of $70 and $80 for new-release VHS movies were customary.

The move is credited as a landmark in home entertainment, as Paramount followed in 1984 by reducing the price of its top 25 titles to $24.95 and packaging them together as the industry’s first holiday promotion.

Harris was inducted into the Video Hall of Fame in 1986, according to the Times.

Harris left Paramount in 1991 and served as president of Sony Pictures Entertainment Television Group from 1992 to 1995, then working as a cable TV consultant and later returning to Sony Pictures Entertainment in 1999 as co-president and COO. He retired in 2002.

Harris is survived by his son as well as his wife of 42 years, Ruth; his brother, Max; and two grandchildren.

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