the movie video Titanic began to be marketed in Spain in mid-October 1998. It is only the first day, more than 600,000 copies were purchased in the 4,000 points of sale spread throughout the territory where it could be purchased.
The boom is such that some establishments open at dawn to be the first to sell them. With such demand, it is not surprising that Titanic would become the best-selling video film in history in our country (1.9 million copies). The direct sale edition on VHS of the film by James Cameron, at the price of 2,995 pesetas, it reactivated the life of video clubs in Spain.
“Until the early 1990s, video libraries did not sell directly. Titanic it was sold, mainly, in video stores, and that’s what got people to become members and to buy and rent movies, because they had been a bit forgotten with Canal+ and all the rest”, declared the journalist to CINEMANIA Xavi Sanchez Pons, who just published The Video Almanac. Graphic and oral history of the era of video libraries, edited by Grass males.
The film critic proposes in the book a historical, visual and fun visit for the golden age of these social centers where cinema of all kinds was distributed. It does this by paying homage to the VHS format (which ousted Betamax as the king of home video in the 1990s) and offers a wide range of covers and trivia.
Like the scandal that occurred in 1990 because on the US cover of the VHS edition of The little Mermaid a golden penis was clearly visible which was part of the structure of a marine palace. “Disney he apologizes and pulls the edition from stores,” the author explains. “Urban legend has it that a disgruntled Disney illustrator put the penis in protest shape. Today, the VHS is a valuable collectible that you can afford to pay upwards of $300 for.
The home cinema revolution
Although today’s teenagers may not know it, the arrival of video clubs changed the film industry forever and meant a social revolution, giving rise to a particular way of consuming cinema at home. “Until then, viewing a home cinema was very limited, unless you were a Spielberg that he had his 16 or 35 millimeter projector at home,” explains Sánchez Pons.
“If you had Super-8, the Super-8 versions of movies were abbreviated 10 or 15 minute versions. When the video has arrived, you can have access to full movies, home movies and popular prices from the first or second year. Any family in Spain and the Western world could buy a video. It was like the most incredible technological breakthrough. People were hanging out and getting together to watch movies and see what the video was about.”
The first two Spanish video clubs opened their doors in 1980. The first of them, Spain Video Club, It was located in Madrid’s Calle Fortuny and soon after launched the first chain of video libraries in the country. The other, Instant Videos, It was founded by a movie-loving married couple and has its origins in a chain of copycat stores.
“In the beginning, the films were sold to individuals or at fairs like Sonimag in Barcelona, until dozens of distributors appeared with the opening of the first video clubs. Of course, also the first issues of rights, piracy and the like. It was an incredibly interesting odyssey,” he says. Jose Fernandez Rivero, who in 2017 directed the documentary rewind, where the importance of the explosion of home video in Spain is reviewed.
The Asturian filmmaker remembers with a certain nostalgia this golden age when some video libraries had to have at least five or ten copies of certain films because they were always rented. “You have to keep in mind that the price of a cassette to rent was quite high but, despite everything, the great action titles, the cinema of Pajares and Esteso or horror films, have always been the great pillars of video libraries”, remember
“Although in reality the great demand for titles that there was meant that everything was rented,” he points out. “And the little titles that were practically included in bundles, as filler, have been, at least for me, the most important part of video libraries, ever since it was there that we could find the essence of what that era meant, on how to make and consume cinema”.
The revolution caused by the arrival of the home cinema has also marked several generations of professionals linked to the world of the seventh art. “In the golden age of video clubs”, says the writer and film critic in the book Ángel Sala, “70% of total movies rented were horror, fantasy, B-movie action or spiced teen comedies as Dipping Meatballs. That’s how they made their living. Classic movies were seen on TV, where they were shown in the correct format, which VHS failed to do by converting everything to pan and scan.
Already in the 90s, the appearance of Canal+ there Through digital, and the rise of the chain blockbuster (which put an end to family and independent video clubs) contributed to the beginning of the end in the activity of these commercial establishments.
“[Los Blockbuster] They were open on Sundays and their rental prices were very low because they had a lot of copies. We had to adapt to this competition,” he says. Aurora is leaving director of the legendary Barcelona video club Instant videos.
At the start of the new millennium, VHS cassettes were definitively replaced by DVDs (only 30% of the films that existed on VHS were edited in this new digital format). It seemed that video libraries would be saved from burning thanks to the optical disc, but internet piracy and the crisis of 2008 gave them the deathblow.
The decline of video libraries
In 2016, VHS players were discontinued and today barely 300 movie rental stores survive in our country. “I think the main problem was the change in the pattern of film consumption,” says Fernández Riveiro.
“Cinema was no longer seen as family fun and society was starting to change in some ways, which ultimately meant that video libraries and the home format in general were all but doomed in our country,” he explains. he.
“Unlike many other countries, like the United States, where things are still going through a fairly mild moment and where, in addition, little by little, films that have only been released on VHS are being saved”, continues- he. “On the other hand, in Spain we will surely not be able to see again many of those films that we could only find in video libraries.”
Sánchez Pons is optimistic about the future of the physical format and believes DVD will survive the streaming era. “It’s a niche that has a few thousand very loyal fans around the world,” he says. “More and more collectors are turning to more elaborate editions. Something similar happened with vinyl: within two thousand it was going to die, and now it’s featured in sales articles. of music.”
“Streaming is great, and I use it, but imagine that one day Netflix or HBO goes bankrupt. What would happen to these films? They would all be lost. On the other hand, if you have a physical copy of a movie at home, that movie will last. The physical format must exist, so that cultural products do not get lost,” he concludes.