Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 by Russ Fischer
Among some movie movie fans, there is a slow resistance growing to anonymous online content delivery systems like Netflix. Those who remember weekend nights spent at the video store, or who wish they could remember those nights, are pushing slowly for the return of some communal video/movie exploration experience.
Because the video store was traditionally the home of VHS, a core component of this push is a wave of nostalgia for the classic video format. The fondness towards VHS is rooted in the idea of that video store, and in the fact that video was one of the first things to level the playing field for some types of films, and remains the only way to see some movies that never made the leap to DVD or digital distribution.
Three filmmakers, Josh Johnson, Carolee Mitchell, and Christopher Palmer, are putting together a film called Rewind This, which looks at the rise of video and the video store culture that flourished for years in the ’80s and ’90s, and how those things changed parts of the film business. They’re using Kickstarter to fund the film, but already have interviews with some video-biz luminaries such as Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman. Check out a trailer for the work in progress film below.
I certainly understand why people might long for the days when there was a communal video store environment. But I keep seeing the comparison of VHS to vinyl, and that is a facile argument.
One format, vinyl, is a superior media when compared to most other options. The other, VHS, is clearly sub-standard when it comes to really reproducing content. People have gone back to vinyl because it remains among the best ways to listen to music. People are going back to VHS, I think, not because video is a great way to watch movies. I don’t think anyone can honestly make that claim. Instead, it’s because of all the stuff that is associated with VHS: old-school cover design, labels pumping out wild and weird movies, and the democratization of movies that VHS provided. A lot of that seems to be what’s in this doc.
(The new wave of VHS interest is closer to the nostalgic revival of audio cassettes. For the past year and change tapes have become popular in some music circles. I think that’s primarily thanks to people who weren’t around for cassettes the first time and so don’t see them as a stop-gap, mostly crappy media. The packaging for cassettes can be great, but a tape is just a shitty way to listen to music.)
Vinyl and VHS aren’t dead, but at best they’re both probably destined to be well-loved niche markets for serious nerds. Yes, VHS changed movies, and it changed the way we watch movies. It’s worth the time to look back at the particulars of the process of change, so I’m hoping Rewind This gets finished. There’s a good Kickstarter page for the film, on which the filmmakers say:
The introduction of home video had a massive impact on culture, business, and the development of media. The film-going public had unprecedented control over their viewing schedule, burgeoning filmmakers had inexpensive tools with which to create, and a new business was formed that expanded the reach of an already exploding industry. Videotape redefined the way modern society interacts with media. REWIND THIS! aims to be the definitive account of the home video revolution and a showcase of its continuing legacy.