On March 10, 1933 something remarkable happened – the film The Crooked Circle was broadcast, in its entirety, on television. While only around six Los Angeles households could pick up the transmission, this bold experiment was a watershed moment. Never before had anyone been able to watch a whole feature film at home. In 1956, The Wizard of Oz became the first truly major film to become a fixture on TV screens in the United States, and many others would follow. But as more and more households in the developed world acquired TV sets and broadcasts of films became the norm, film fans were still constricted by scheduling and could not own film recordings.
That finally changed in the mid-1970s with the next major development in the history of home film viewing: the launch of the analogue videocassette formats Betamax (in 1975) and VHS (in 1976). VHS eventually won the famous videocassette format war, and became the basis for countless rental stores and personal film collections around the world: “home video” as we know it became a reality. It took until the late 1990s for the Digital Versatile Disc or DVD to begin to supplant VHS as the dominant format. The advantages of the digital discs, which had beaten off competition from the analogue LaserDisc format, make it practical for TV series to be released on home video for the first time. DVD is of course very much still with us 20 years later, being the dominant physical format outside Japan.
Right now is a very interesting and important time in the history of home video. The Blu Ray disc is the current physical format and as of June, will have been commercially available for ten years. However, Sony's format has never achieved the market penetration of DVD and is increasingly seen as a niche technology for hardcore film fans. There are a number of reasons for this: the high initial cost of Blu Ray discs and players and the declining interest in owning a film collection are significant, but the inexorable rise of video-on-demand (VOD) and streaming services is by far the most important factor. Today, these services are the main or even only way that millions of people consume film at home. However, there are at least five good reasons why Blu Ray is not dead, and indeed why it may just be coming into its own.
Sometime film reviewer, Letterboxd user, novice Blu-Ray collector. Top 3 directors: Woo, Hill, Leone.
Henry V (UK, 1989) ★★★★½
The Fast and the Furious (USA, 2001) ★★★★
Goodfellas (USA, 1990) ★★★★★
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