Home video

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Some home video users have a collection of prerecorded media, such as movies, on DVDs. DVDs are only one of a number of ways of viewing home video.

Home video is prerecorded media sold or rented for home viewing.[1] The term originates from the VHS and Betamax era, when the predominant medium was videotapes, but has carried over to optical disc formats such as DVD and Blu-ray. In a different usage, "home video" refers to amateur video recordings, also known as home movies.[2]

The home-video business distributes films, television series, telefilms and other audiovisual media in the form of videos in various formats to the public. These are either bought or rented, and then watched privately in purchasers' homes. Most theatrically released films are now[when?] released on digital media, both optical and download-based, replacing the largely obsolete videotape medium. The Video CD format remains popular in Asia, although DVDs are[when?] gradually gaining popularity.


As early as 1906, various film entrepreneurs began to discuss the potential of home viewing of films, and in 1912, both Edison and Pathé started selling film projectors for home use.[3] Because making release prints was (and still is[when?]) very expensive, early home projector owners rented films by mail from the projector manufacturer.[3] Edison's business model was fundamentally flawed because the company had started with phonographs and did not understand that home viewing is fundamentally different from home listening.[3] Edison ended its home viewing business in 1914, while Pathé remained somewhat longer, but exited at some point during World War I.[3]

After the quick failures of these early attempts at home viewing, most feature films were essentially inaccessible to the public after their original theatrical runs.[4] Some very popular films were given occasional theatrical re-releases in urban revival houses and the screening rooms of a few archives and museums.[citation needed] Beginning in the 1950s, most could be expected to be broadcast on television, eventually.[citation needed] During this era, television programs normally could only be viewed at the time of broadcast. Viewers were accustomed to the fact that there was no easy way to record television shows at home and watch them whenever desired.[citation needed]

In 1924, Kodak invented 16-mm film, which became popular for home use,[3] and then later developed 8-mm film.[5] After that point, the public could purchase a film projector for one of those film formats and rent or buy home-use prints of some cartoons, short comedies, and brief "highlights" reels edited from feature films.[citation needed] In the case of the 16-mm format, most of these were available with an optical soundtrack. Some entire feature films in 16-mm could be rented or bought.[citation needed] The 8-mm films almost never ran longer than 10 minutes; only a few were available with a magnetic soundtrack late in the life[colloquialism?] of the format.[citation needed] The Super 8 film format, introduced in 1965,[6] was marketed for making home movies, but it also boosted the popularity of show-at-home films.[citation needed] Eventually, longer, edited-down versions of feature films were issued, which increasingly came in color and with a magnetic soundtrack,[citation needed] but in comparison to modern[specify] technologies, film projection was still quite expensive and difficult to use.[5] As a result, home viewing of films remained an activity only for people willing and able to invest large amounts of money in projectors, screens, and film prints,[5] and it therefore made little revenue for film companies.[3]

In 1956, Ampex pioneered the first commercially practical videotape recording system.[5] The Ampex system, though, used reel-to-reel tape and physically bulky equipment not suitable for home use.[5]

In the mid-1970s, videotape became the first truly practical home-video format with the development of videocassettes, which were far easier to use than tape reels. The Betamax and VHS home videocassette formats were introduced, respectively, in 1975 and 1976[7] but several more years and significant reductions in the prices of both equipment and videocassettes were needed before both formats started to become widespread in households.[citation needed]

Initially, film studios and video distributors assumed that the public would not want to buy prerecorded videocassettes, but merely rent them. They also felt that virtually all of the sales would be to video rental stores and set prices accordingly.[citation needed] The shift to home viewing also changed revenue streams for film companies, because home renting provided an additional window of time in which a film could make money. In some cases, films that performed only modestly in their theater releases went on to sell significantly well in the rental market (e.g., cult films).[citation needed]

Video rental stores became a popular way to watch home video.[when?] Video rental stores are physical retail businesses that rent home videos such as movies, prerecorded TV shows, as well as sometimes selling other media, such as physical video game copies on disc. Typically, a rental shop conducts business with customers under conditions and terms agreed upon in a rental agreement or contract, which may be implied, explicit, or written. Many video rental stores also sell previously viewed movies and/or new unopened movies.[citation needed] In the 1980s, video rental stores rented films in both the VHS and Betamax formats, although most stores stopped using Betamax tapes when VHS won the format war late in the decade.[citation needed]

Movie boxes on display at a video rental store

During the 1980s, film distributors slowly came to understand that many people did want to build their own video libraries, and not just rent, if the price were right,[tone] and in turn, a title that had sold a few hundred copies at $99 might sell tens or even hundreds of thousands of copies at $19.99 or $9.99.[citation needed] The first company to duplicate and distribute home video was Magnetic Video in 1977.[citation needed] Magnetic Video was established in 1968 as an audio and video duplication service for professional audio and television corporations in Farmington Hills, Michigan, United States, although Avco's 1972 Cartrivision system preceded Magnetic Vision's expansion into home video by a few years.[8]

Special-interest video production[edit]

Until the mid-1980s, feature film theatrical releases such as The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, and Casablanca were the mainstay of video marketing and helmed by large studios such as Universal, 20th Century Fox, and Disney.[citation needed][clarification needed] At that time, not many people owned a VCR, and those who did tended to rent rather than buy videos.[citation needed] Toward the end of that decade, a rise[colloquialism] of smaller companies began producing special-interest videos, also known as "nontheatrical programming" and "alternative programming", and "selling-through" to the customer.[citation needed] It was pointed out at the time that:

[L]imitations within the video marketplace may be gone tomorrow. More people are finding innovative ways to create visually stimulating entertainment and information for the video tape player... Like contemporary book publishing, you can produce and distribute yourself to very narrow markets or seek broad-based distributors for mass-oriented appeal[9]

Special-interest video increased the number of topics and audiences to include "...dog handling videos, back pain videos and cooking videos", which were not previously thought of as marketable. Next, even "golf and skiing tapes* started selling. Contemporary sources noted, "new technology has changed the territory" of the home video market.[10]

Decline of videotape and popularization of disks[edit]

By the 2000s, home video purchasers moved away from videotapes, increasingly preferring DVDs. Pictured is a cart of used videotape movies on sale at a used-goods market.

In the early 2000s, VHS began to be displaced by DVD.[citation needed] The DVD format has several advantages over VHS. A DVD consists of a single disc, which is spun at high speed, while VHS videocassettes had several moving parts that were far more vulnerable to breaking down under heavy wear and tear. Each time a VHS cassette was played, the magnetic tape inside had to be pulled out and wrapped around the inclined drum head inside the player. While a VHS tape can be erased if it is exposed to a rapidly changing magnetic field of sufficient strength, DVDs and other optical discs are not affected by magnetic fields.[citation needed] The relative mechanical simplicity and durability of DVD compared to the fragility of VHS made DVDs a far better format from a rental store's perspective.

Though DVDs do not have the problems of videocassettes, such as breakage of the tape or the cassette mechanism, they can still be damaged by scratches. Another advantage from the perspective of video rental stores is that DVDs are physically much smaller, so they take less space to store. DVDs also offer a number of advantages for the viewer: DVDs can support both standard 4:3 and widescreen 16:9 screen-aspect ratios, and can provide twice the video resolution of VHS. Skipping ahead to the end is much easier and faster with a DVD than with a VHS tape (which has to be rewound).[citation needed] DVDs can have interactive menus, multiple language tracks, audio commentaries, closed captioning, and subtitling (with the option of turning the subtitles on or off, or selecting subtitles in several languages). Moreover, a DVD can be played on a computer.[citation needed]

Due to all these advantages, by the mid-2000s, DVDs had become the dominant form of prerecorded video movies in both the rental film and new movie markets.[citation needed] In the late 2000s, stores began selling Blu-ray discs, a format that supports high definition.[citation needed]

Early 4K Blu-ray release at Best Buy: A 4K Blu-ray disc player was also released.

Blu-ray is a digital optical disc data storage format, designed to supersede the DVD format, and is capable of storing several hours of video in high definition (HDTV 720p and 1080p). The main application of Blu-ray is as a medium for video material such as feature films and for the physical distribution of video games. The plastic disc is the same size as DVDs and compact discs.[11]

Blu-ray was officially released on June 20, 2006, beginning the high-definition optical disc format war, in which Blu-ray Disc competed against the HD DVD format. Toshiba, the main company supporting HD DVD, conceded in February 2008.[12] Blu-ray has competition from video on demand (VOD) and the continued sale of DVDs.[13] Notably,[according to whom?] as of January 2016, 44% of U.S. broadband households had a Blu-ray player.[14]

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, though, people continued to use VCRs to record over-the-air TV shows, because they could not make home recordings onto DVDs.[citation needed] This problem with DVD was resolved in the late 2000s, when inexpensive DVD recorders and other digital video recorders (DVRs) – which record shows onto a hard disk or flash storage – became available to purchase and rent.[citation needed]

Despite the mainstream dominance of DVD, VHS continued to be used, albeit infrequently, into the 2000s; decline in VHS use continued during the 2010s. The switch to DVD initially led to mass-selling of used VHS videocassettes, which were available at used-goods stores, typically for a much lower price than the equivalent film on a used DVD.[citation needed] In July 2016, the last known manufacturer of VCRs, Funai, announced that it was ceasing VCR production.[15]

Transition from disk-based viewing to a streaming culture[edit]

One of movie streaming's largest impacts was on DVD, which has become less popular with the mass popularization of online streaming of media.[citation needed] Media streaming's popularization caused many DVD rental companies, such as Blockbuster, to go out of business. In July 2015, The New York Times published an article about Netflix's DVD-by-mail services. It stated that Netflix was continuing their DVD services with 5.3 million subscribers, which was a significant decrease from the previous year, but their streaming services had 65 million members.[16]

Netflix's primary business is its subscription-based streaming service, which offers online streaming of a library of films and television programs, including those produced in-house.[17] As of April 2019, Netflix had over 148 million paid subscriptions worldwide, including 60 million in the United States, and over 154 million subscriptions total, including free trials.[18] It is available worldwide except in mainland China (due to local restrictions), Syria, North Korea, and Crimea (due to U.S. sanctions). The company also has offices in India, the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, and South Korea.[19] Netflix is a member of the Motion Picture Association.[20] Netflix began producing media itself in 2012. Since 2012, Netflix has taken more of an active role as producer and distributor for both film and television series.[citation needed]

Time gap between theatrical and home video release[edit]

A time period is usually required to elapse between theatrical release and availability on home video to encourage movie theater patronage and discourage copyright infringement. Home-video releases originally followed five to six months after theatrical release, but since the late 2000s, most films have begun being distributed on video after three to four months. As of 2019, most major theater chains mandate an exclusivity window of 90 days before home-video release, and 74–76 days before electronic sell-through.[21] Christmas and other holiday-related movies are sometimes not released on home video until the following year, when the holiday occurs again.[22] Major studios have made films available for rental during their theatrical window on high-end services that charge upwards of $500 per rental and use proprietary hardware.[23]

Exceptions to the rule include the Steven Soderbergh film Bubble, which was released in 2006 to theaters, cable television, and DVD only a few days apart.[24] Netflix has released some of its films, such as Roma and The Irishman, in limited theatrical release followed by streaming availability after less than 30 days.[21]

Television programs[edit]

Many television programs are now also available in complete seasons on DVD.[citation needed] It has become popular practice for discontinued TV shows to be released to DVD one season at a time every few months and active shows to be released on DVD after the end of each season.[citation needed] Prior to the television DVDs, most television shows were only viewable in syndication, or on limited "best of" VHS releases of selected episodes. These copyrighted movies and programs generally have legal restrictions on them preventing them from, among other things, being shown in public venues, shown to other people for money, or copied for other than fair use purposes (although such ability is limited by some jurisdictions and media formats – see below).[citation needed]


After the passage of the Video Recordings (Labelling) Act of 1985 in the United Kingdom, videotapes and other video recordings without a certification symbol from the British Board of Film Classification on their covers – or on the tapes themselves – were no longer allowed to be sold or displayed by rental shops.[25] These tapes are called "Pre-Certs" (e.g., Pre-certification tapes). Recently these tapes have generated a cult following, due to their collectability.[citation needed]

DVD Awards[edit]

Every year since 2004, the film festival Il Cinema Ritrovato holds the DVD Awards, where they award the highest quality DVDs (and later Blu-rays) released by home-media companies around the world.[26][27][28][29][30][31][32]

Year Best DVD (later The Peter von Bagh Award) Company Best Blu-ray Company
2004 "Pier Paolo Pasolini - Les Années 60" Carlotta Films N/A
2005 "Alexandre Medvedkine" Arte N/A
2006 Entuziazm Österreichisches Filmmuseum N/A
2007 "Ernst Lubitsch Collection" Transit Film-Murnau Stiftung N/A
2008 L'argent
The Threepenny Opera
Carlotta Films
The Criterion Collection
2009 "Joris Ivens Wereldcineast" European Foundation Joris Ivens N/A
2010 "By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume Two" The Criterion Collection La Rosa di Bagdad [Mention] Cinecittà Luce
2011 "Segundo de Chomón 1903 – 1912" Filmoteca de Catalunya and Cameo Media s.l. "America Lost and Found: The BBS Story" [Mention] The Criterion Collection
2012 "The Complete Humphrey Jennings Volume 2: Fires Were Started" British Film Institute "A Hollis Frampton Odyssey" The Criterion Collection
2013 Gli ultimi La Cineteca del Friuli Lonesome The Criterion Collection
2014 "Džim Švantė (Sol' Svanetii) & Gvozd' v sapoge" Edition Filmmuseum Underground British Film Institute
2015 "The House of Mystery (La Maison du mystère)" Flicker Alley, LLC
The Blackhawk Films Collection
"The Connection: Project Shirley, Volume One"
"Portrait of Jason: Project Shirley, Volume Two"
"Ornette: Made in America: Project Shirley, Volume 3"
Milestone Film & Video
2016 "Frederick Wiseman Intégrale Vol. 1" Blaq Out N/A
2017 The Salvation Hunters Edition Filmmuseum N/A
2018 "Arne Sucksdorff: Samlade Verk" Studio S Entertainment N/A
2019 Non contate su di noi Penny Video
Cineteca Nazionale
2020 Fragment of an Empire Flicker Alley, LLC N/A

See also[edit]

Categories and lists[edit]


  1. ^ "home video". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved Apr 29, 2020.
  2. ^ "home video". Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved Apr 29, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Wasser, Frederick (2001). Veni, Vidi, Video: The Hollywood Empire and the VCR. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9780292791466. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  4. ^ Gomery, Douglas (1992). Shared Pleasures A History of Movie Presentation in the United States. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 277. ISBN 9780299132149.
  5. ^ a b c d e Gomery, Douglas (1992). Shared Pleasures A History of Movie Presentation in the United States. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 278. ISBN 9780299132149.
  6. ^ "Super 8mm Film History | Motion Picture Film". motion.kodak.com. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  7. ^ ,"50 Years of the Video Cassette Recorder". WIPO. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  8. ^ "Alternate Magnetic Video Corporation Licensees". Alternate History Discussion. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  9. ^ "Home Video Publishing: Are You Ready?" by Michael Wiese, PMA Newsletter, July 1987, pp.6-13
  10. ^ "Special Interest Comes of Age," by Bo Lebo, PMA Newsletter, May 1990, p.18
  11. ^ "6JSC/ALA/16/LC response" (PDF). rda-jsc.org. September 13, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 14, 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
  12. ^ "Toshiba Announces Discontinuation of HD DVD Businesses" (Press release). Toshiba. February 19, 2008. Archived from the original on February 25, 2008. Retrieved February 26, 2008.
  13. ^ "SONY BUYS A FACEBOOK SPINOFF TO GIVE NEW LIFE TO BLU-RAY". Wired. May 27, 2015. Archived from the original on March 6, 2017. Retrieved March 5, 2017.
  14. ^ Morris, Chris (January 8, 2016). "Blu-ray Struggles in the Streaming Age". Fortune. Archived from the original on January 9, 2017. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  15. ^ Sun, Yazhou; Yan, Sophia (2016-07-22). "The last VCR will be manufactured this month". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
  16. ^ Steel, Emily (July 26, 2015). "Netflix refines its DVD business, even as streaming unit booms". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 21, 2017. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  17. ^ Pogue, David (January 25, 2007). "A Stream of Movies, Sort of Free". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on March 22, 2016. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  18. ^ "Q1 2019 Letter to Netflix Shareholders" (PDF). Netflix Investor Relations. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  19. ^ "Netflix Corporate Information". Netflix. Archived from the original on January 3, 2018.
  20. ^ McClintock, Pamela (January 22, 2019). "Netflix Becomes First Streamer to Join the Motion Picture Association of America". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Netflix Forgoes Wide Release for Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-10-05.
  22. ^ Kerrigan, Finola (4 November 2009). Film Marketing. Routledge. ISBN 9781136440014.
  23. ^ Guerrasio, Jason. "The $35,000 device that celebrities and the super-rich use at home to stream movies still in theaters". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-10-18.
  24. ^ "Bubble May Burst Hollywood". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  25. ^ "The Video Recordings Act | British Board of Film Classification". www.bbfc.co.uk. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  26. ^ "Il Cinema Ritrovato - DVD Awards" (PDF). Cineteca di Bologna. Istituzione Cineteca del Comune di Bologna. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  27. ^ "DVD AWARDS 2015 – XII edition: THE WINNERS". Il Cinema Ritrovato. Cineteca di Bologna. 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  28. ^ "Il Cinema Ritrovato DVD Awards – XIII edition. The Winners". Il Cinema Ritrovato. Cineteca di Bologna. 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  29. ^ "Il Cinema Ritrovato Dvd Awards 2017 EDITION XIV". Il Cinema Ritrovato. Cineteca di Bologna. 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  30. ^ "Il Cinema Ritrovato DVD Awards 2018 XV edition – The winners". Il Cinema Ritrovato. Cineteca di Bologna. 2018. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  31. ^ "Il Cinema Ritrovato DVD Awards 2019 XVI edition – The winners". Il Cinema Ritrovato. Cineteca di Bologna. 2019. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  32. ^ "Il Cinema Ritrovato DVD Awards XVI edition – 2020" (PDF). Il Cinema Ritrovato. Cineteca di Bologna. 2020. Retrieved 14 September 2002.