Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VHS Mo

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Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VHS Mo

PostFri Dec 22, 2017 12:26 pm

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-21/alamo-drafthouse-cinema-is-opening-a-video-rental-shop

Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VHS Movies
Alamo Drafthouse’s soon-to-open Raleigh location will feature a video rental shop.
By Rachel Tepper Paley
December 21, 2017, 2:40 PM CST

Blockbuster may be long gone—well, except a few holdouts in Alaska and, until recently, Mexico—but Alamo Drafthouse Cinema wants you to relive your heady, aisle-wandering days. The Austin-based cinema chain is opening a video rental store tucked away in the bar of its forthcoming Raleigh, N.C., location. It’s set to open in February.

Founded in 1997, Alamo Drafthouse spans only 29 locations but has achieved an outsized following, thanks to its food and drink program—black-clad waiters take orders and deliver food and booze during the screenings—and its zero-tolerance policy for talking and texting. It’s all part of the chain’s plan to woo movie fans out of their homes and back to the theater. With the rental store pivot, it seems there’s a time for screens both big and small.

The blast from the past is an extension of Alamo’s national VHS-screening series, Video Vortex, which features the best straight-to-video releases (not an oxymoron, apparently). For the last three to four years, Alamo has been raiding the shelves of going-out-of-business video rental shops the world over, snatching up films that date largely from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. For the new rental shop, it plans to curate a rotating selection of those cassette tapes themed to whatever’s playing in the theater. There’s a logistical component at play: Alamo’s VHS catalog now includes tens of thousands of titles. Put together, they’re a remnant of a deeply influential film era you may not know even existed.
Entrance to the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in Austin.
Photographer: Heather Leah Kennedy

“When video stores started appearing on the scene, there were a lot of people that said, ‘This is amazing,’” says Skip Elsheimer, an Alamo Drafthouse consultant who helped come up with the rental shop idea. “You had a lot of people making things, weird things. … They realized that the expense of releasing that in theaters—they couldn't afford it. But they could film something and sell it directly to video stores.”

So began the age of backyard, do-it-yourself filmmaking, buoyed by the introduction of the first commercial camcorder by Sony in 1983. The resulting films perhaps weren’t the most polished productions, but they offered something else. “They didn’t execute it well, but they had an idea,” Elsheimer says. “And that always makes for interesting stuff, I think.”

From art house to horror, these films often influenced big-budget, mainstream movies and directors that followed, says Joe Ziemba, a programming director at Alamo. But as media formats changed—from VHS to DVD to Blu-Ray to online streaming—these films disappeared. “It’s definitely a missing link of culture,” he says. The store is “about making these movies available, because a lot of these movies are only available in these formats.”
Source: Alamo Drafthouse

Alamo is still in the midst of assessing which cassettes are in rental condition, but potential offerings are an eclectic bunch: They include the 1988 Hong Kong-filmed action flick, American Commando Ninja; Fistful Of Fingers, an early comedy western from 1995 by Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright; I Was a Teenage Werewolf, a 1957 drive-in classic starring Little House on the Prairie actor Michael Landon; and Grim Prairie Tales, a 1990 horror anthology set in the West, with James Earl Jones.

If these sound like esoteric titles, you’re right. “These are a little bit more underground and a little bit more challenging,” says Ziemba. “You’re not going to see a VHS of Jurassic Park, because who cares?”

Alamo isn’t sure yet how much it’ll charge per rental, but Elsheimer said the fee will be low enough that “people don’t balk.” For those without working VCRs in their basements to dust off, Alamo will rent those out, too. (Or you can buy your own, amazingly still available for sale on Amazon.com for upwards of $75.) The shop will also offer a limited number of straight-to-DVD and straight-to-Blu-ray titles and will be hiring certifiable video nerds to manage the store and collection. Because let’s be honest, it’s not an authentic video rental experience unless your selection is being silently judged.

Ziemba and Elsheimer, both VHS aficionados and collectors themselves, believe that with 1980s and ’90s nostalgia running at an all-time high, cinephiles are ready to give straight-to-video films their due.

“We loved Stranger Things and we love the idea that people are interested in [films] like this—I think it’s all part of the same cultural thing,” says Ziemba.

But although fans of the straight-to-video genre might described some films as “so bad, they're good,” Ziemba says this is a misperception that Alamo fights against. “People are understanding that these movies are fun and super-entertaining, and they’re to be appreciated,” he said. “People are rediscovering them for the right reason.”

Alamo hopes to expand the Video Vortex rental shop concept to other locations, but “we need to see how it works first,” Elsheimer says. That means people will actually have to rent videos, which doesn’t seem a promising business model, judging by recent trends. Still, he believes success is possible, even if it won’t be the second coming of Blockbuster.

“You look at some record labels that are actively doing things on vinyl,” he says. “It’s very much a boutique kind of thing. I think that’s the direction we’re looking at.”
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostFri Dec 22, 2017 1:12 pm

I recently had a chance to view a VHS tape (my player has long since gone the way of the Victrola) and, frankly, I'm glad the format is dead. Horrible compared to all but the most craptastic digital transfers.

No doubt hoping to cash in on some retro fad, although I do note that some S2V video store posters are commanding some serious prices, so maybe it's a thing.
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostFri Dec 22, 2017 5:25 pm

Will they ever perfect laserdisc recording?
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostFri Dec 22, 2017 9:02 pm

oldposterho wrote:I recently had a chance to view a VHS tape (my player has long since gone the way of the Victrola) and, frankly, I'm glad the format is dead. Horrible compared to all but the most craptastic digital transfers.

No doubt hoping to cash in on some retro fad, although I do note that some S2V video store posters are commanding some serious prices, so maybe it's a thing.


Maybe the VHS format is "craptastic" looking, but I still own a VCR, and all but a handful of the many rare films and sporting events I taped off TV in the mid to late '80s can still be played on my machine. We'll see if DVDs and Blus have the same staying power in 30 years, even as I've upgraded most of what is in my collection to disc.

Keep in mind also that some titles issued on VHS have not been -- and may well never be -- officially released on disc.
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostFri Dec 22, 2017 9:17 pm

Because we have so many VHS tapes, my family has always purchased combo VHS-DVD players. Plus, my wife's old portable TV in the basement has a built-in VRS player, and I use it to watch tapes while exercising. I also salvaged a giant TV with built-in VHS player from my office when we downsized a couple of years ago.

Prepare to swoon, retro techies: I also still have my Beta player from, hmmm, early 1980s? Haven't tried it in about 20 years, but I still have 15 Beta tapes of the original Benny Hill shows and about 30 Beta tapes of the original SCTV half-hour series which were only seen in Canada, as far as I know, so I'm in no hurry to dump the player even if I don't use it. I've also got a lot of silents taped off TV onto Beta tapes; most of them I managed later to transfer to VHS, but there are still quite a lot of documentaries that I have only in Beta.

I tried to grab my Dad's old 8mm projector when we sold our parents' house last year, but since my brother was still living there while I was living 400 km away, he was able to take it to his new apartment at his leisure. Rats.

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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostSat Dec 23, 2017 2:33 am

Vinyl came back, and expensive now, and now they are trying to bring back the humble audio cassette. What next?
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostSat Dec 23, 2017 10:07 am

I have a VCR and it is hooked up in the living room. The quality isn't great, but it is watchable. (Unfortunately some of the picture gets cut off with our widescreen tv though.) And some of the movies I have aren't available on DVD so that's the only way to watch them.
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostSat Dec 23, 2017 11:34 am

When I got my first dvd player in 2003, I got rid of all my vhs tapes except for one of a tv show I appeared on in 1993, and a tape of my sister's wedding from 1990. Those two tapes were transferred to dvd r media and still play fine more than a decade after the fact. My first dvd purchases still play without a hiccup 14 years after I bought them. These are kept in dvd wallets and yes, a few have some very minor surface scratching and/or scuffs. I have never had a problem playing any of these. The classic movies and tv shows I had on tape have been replaced with dvds or blu rays and look and play far better than the tapes I originally had. I've also noticed that blu ray players seem to have more longevity than regular dvd players. I have two blu ray players, one six years old and one four. They get played quite a bit, and they have both lasted longer than standard dvd players, whose main problem seemed to be short laser life. I also own a portable dvd player that is now about 4 years old. It doesn't get played too often, but it seems to be holding up ok.
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostSat Dec 23, 2017 12:24 pm

moviepas wrote:Vinyl came back, and expensive now, and now they are trying to bring back the humble audio cassette. What next?


I kept all my vinyl records, even though I can no longer hear them. Then I trained my oldest son to appreciate the music of the '60s, 70s (punk/new wave and art/progressive, not disco), and 80s (Lou Reed, Graham Parker, XTC, etc.). Now he can't wait to inherit the original vinyls!

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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostSat Dec 23, 2017 12:59 pm

My old vinyls disappeared, but I have gotten back into collecting with buying some new releases as well as old ones on Ebay. The type goes from Big Band to Hair Band, and I am enjoying collecting the original Hair Band vinyl album covers as much as the albums. I was also lucky enough that my Dad had a good deal of 78's that had been in the family for decades that he gave to me. Plus, I found a shop in Frederick, Maryland, that for a long time would have stacks of 78's that they would sell each record for ten cents each. Unfortunately, they no longer sell 78s.

I still have a VHS player and some old VHS tapes. On occasion I would try to play some old sporting events that I recorded back in the 1990's, but those tapes have not held up well. Some are almost unwatchable. As much as I like nostalgia, I don't plan to get in on a resurgence of VHS tapes as DVD's are so much more convenient. Same with audio cassettes vs CDs.

If I were to go back into an older technology it would be laserdisks. I understand there are some titles that are available on that, such as The Wind, that can't be had on DVD. In another instance, I understand that the color scheme for Mystery of the Wax Museum is off on the DVD but was correct on laserdisk.

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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostSat Dec 23, 2017 5:40 pm

Nostalgia for jamming cassettes, broken tapes, crud-covered video heads, stretch marks, quickly fading color, and patience-challenging rewinding? Nooooo!
They call me "Dangerous Dal"
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostSat Dec 23, 2017 6:11 pm

mwalls wrote: As much as I like nostalgia, I don't plan to get in on a resurgence of VHS tapes as DVD's are so much more convenient.
Matthew


This I agree with wholeheartedly. With DVDs, you can go directly to the place in the program that you want to start with. True, with VHS you always start exactly where you left off, but you have very little flexibility. If you're watching a retro TV show like Leave It To Beaver, on VHS you have to go from episode 22 to episode 23 and no passing Go or collecting $200, whereas with DVDs you can skip from episode 22 to episode 32 without wasting time.

For me, the perfect example of the frustrations with VHS is the deluxe edition of The Searchers. The film is captioned, the endless documentary is not. Unfortunately, the endless documentary precedes the film on the tape, which means I have to waste about 20 minutes fast-forwarding to the movie. With the DVD, I simply click on "Play Movie" and ignore the doc.

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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostSat Dec 23, 2017 6:42 pm

I still grab old vinyl albums when I see one I know is not on CD. Maybe Video Vortex would like my crapload of VHS tapes taking up valuable space.
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostSat Dec 23, 2017 6:54 pm

The only problem is VHS is only about 250 lines resolution versus DVD at 480 and BLURAY at 1080.

VHS looks sort of OK on a small TV screen, but totally unacceptable on large screens and projection.

That said, I still have all my old VHS tapes I recorded off TCM 20 years ago and whenever I see a nice clean VHS machine at
a garage sale, I grab it...(got a very clean relatively recent Sony at a yard sale for $2)
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostSun Dec 24, 2017 10:05 am

I still have a VHS and Beta tape decks and a laserdisc player - _ enjoy copying things digitally and spiffing them up. As far as resolution on VHS tapes - or Beta I would presume - there's this gadget called the Farroudja VP100 TV Enhancer that's a line doubler with sharpness and delay controls, the delay meaning if the colors are out of phase it can realign them. They're hard to find but invaluable.
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostTue Dec 26, 2017 6:17 pm

Portland's Movie Madness video store, which was recently acquired by the Hollywood Theatre via Kickstarter and turned into a non-profit, not only rents VHS videos but is now sourcing video players that clients can rent on which to play them. I can think of plenty of movies that never made the jump from video to DVD, for whatever reason, and this ensures they stay in circulation.

https://www.npr.org/2017/10/21/558942850/a-portland-video-store-goes-nonprofit-to-save-itself
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostWed Dec 27, 2017 11:46 am

Maybe my plan to open a laserdisc rental shop isn't so crazy after all...I did sell off a number of titles in my collection, but kept things like the Criterion editions of Citizen Kane and Magnificent Ambersons that weren't replicated on DVD, and beautiful box sets for things like Pinocchio, Fantasia and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Now RCA Selectavision, there's a crappy format...
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostThu Dec 28, 2017 5:58 am

I take my hat off to places like this. There's still a lot out there that hasn't been restored onto DVD. In the past I have resorted to purchasing VHS tapes from eBay to see something I never saw before, released in 1994, or 1983, etc. I still have my VCR for circumstances such as these. It has served me well.

oldposterho wrote:I recently had a chance to view a VHS tape (my player has long since gone the way of the Victrola) and, frankly, I'm glad the format is dead. Horrible compared to all but the most craptastic digital transfers.


You sound as if you recently viewed a VHS tape for the first time. Ever.
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostThu Dec 28, 2017 6:22 am

In 2010, I bought the Panasonic DMP-BD70V Blu-ray Disc/VHS Multimedia Player from Amazon for $135, a clearance price. Originally, the unit's retail price was $399. Panasonic discontinued the model, deciding that VHS was a dead medium.
Panasonic makes what is, in my opinion, the best VHS player ever and then moves on. Panasonic made the right decision, VHS 1/2 inch analog consumer tapes do not hold a candle to 12 cm DVD discs for storing recordings. The main problem for me was playing back recorded VHS tapes I had to my DVD recorder's hard drive. I had to record in real time. Even mass duplicators of VHS movies could only duplicate their master recordings to VHS at a maximum of double speed on slave VHS recorders, AFAIK. Thanks to computer technology, making digital copies of your DVDRs can be done much faster. And unlike DVDs, in rare instances, VCR tape can snap off the hub during fast rewind.
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostThu Dec 28, 2017 8:13 am

Zool wrote:You sound as if you recently viewed a VHS tape for the first time. Ever.


You got me. No getting by your keen perceptive abilities. All that stuff about my player dying years ago? A not-so-clever ruse that had no chance with this crowd.

Sheesh...

For them's with reading comprehension issues, my OP was not disputing the 'need' for VHS to view otherwise unviewable product, it was about the innate crappiness of the format and my surprise that there was any 'retro' interest in it. I hope that clears things up.
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Re: Dust Off That VCR, a Cinema Chain Is Starting to Rent VH

PostThu Dec 28, 2017 2:37 pm

oldposterho wrote:
Zool wrote:You sound as if you recently viewed a VHS tape for the first time. Ever.


You got me. No getting by your keen perceptive abilities. All that stuff about my player dying years ago? A not-so-clever ruse that had no chance with this crowd.

Sheesh...

For them's with reading comprehension issues, my OP was not disputing the 'need' for VHS to view otherwise unviewable product, it was about the innate crappiness of the format and my surprise that there was any 'retro' interest in it. I hope that clears things up.


Oh I have no reading comprehension issues. I’m merely telling you what you sounded like.
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