Has the Time Come for a Museum of Home Entertainment?

It’s been said that there’s no such thing as a bad idea. Challenging, maybe. Difficult to execute, perhaps. Needs a little tweaking — don’t they all?

With these and other caveats in mind, let me share with you something I’ve been thinking about ever since I wrote that exhaustive two-part series on 25 years of digital entertainment in the March and April issues of Media Play News.

A museum dedicated to home entertainment, opening somewhere in the Los Angeles area in time for home video’s 50th anniversary in 2027.

It was in 1977 that an entrepreneur named Andre Blay licensed 50 movies from 20th Century Fox, including MASH and The French Connection, and released them on videocassette under his own Magnetic Video banner. To Hollywood’s surprise, sales boomed — and so did rentals, as savvy retailers brought the pricey cassettes and began renting them out for a dollar or two a night.

The VHS rental boom gave way to the DVD sales phenomenon, after which the business went digital — bringing us right up to the present, with streaming by far the dominant form of home media consumption, alongside legacy business models such as TVOD and the physical disc.

The Museum of Home Entertainment would celebrate all of this. I’ve already drawn up a list of potential exhibits in my mind, beginning with early attempts to bring movies into the home — before Blay, companies such as Blackhawk Films marketed vintage black-and-white features, mostly comedies, on 16mm, 8mm and Super 8 film.

From there, exhibits would focus on Blay and the explosive success of Magnetic Video; the VHS-Betamax format war; the early video rental retail pioneers ; the battle over First Sale; early video labels such as Media Home Entertainment and Vestron; the direct-to-video phenomenon; the erotic thriller; Rentrak and studio attempts to share rental revenue; the rise and fall of Erol’s, National, Blockbuster, and the other national chains; Warren Lieberfarb and DVD; the sellthrough revolution, enabled by DVD and led by the mass merchants; the birth of Netflix as a disc-by-mail rental service; Redbox; the Blu-ray Disc/HD-DVD format war; the heyday of Blu-ray and early attempts at connectivity; first attempts at streaming; the streaming boom; and the shift toward ad-supported streaming.

The scale has yet to be determined. It could be as simple as repurposed space on the USC campus, administered by the university’s famed film school. Or, on the other extreme, it could be a grand standalone museum, run by a foundation, that could turn into a significant tourist draw — maybe not the Getty, but not Ripley’s, either.

So … there you have it. My big, fat idea, something I’ve been thinking about for a while and now want to throw out there to see what people think. Please share your thoughts or email me privately if this is something you might like to get involved with.

Who knows where this might lead?

4 thoughts on “Has the Time Come for a Museum of Home Entertainment?”

  1. I’ve had this idea for years. I have plenty of things to display, such as every CED videodisc title and even a prototype American VHD videodisc player and discs! If I could earn a living wage running such a museum I would jump into it in an instant.

  2. I like the idea. Sounds kind of cool. And don’t forget the Laser Disc format (and competing large disc formats like RCA Selectavision) and even the failed Divx format pushed by the defunct Circuit City–not to mention JVC’s short lived manufacture and sale of HD VHS titles and players (which vanished as a viable format with the appearance of HD-DVD and Blu-ray). And there are even more various esoteric formats which appeared and then disappeared in other countries too. There’s a whole graveyard of “here-and-then-gone” formats in the home video field. And also home video playback systems (mono VHS, analog stereo VHS, HiFi stereo VHS and Beta players, decoder formats like Dolby surround processors/receivers/systems, Dolby Pro-Logic processors/receivers/systems, Dolby Digital and DTS processors/receivers/systems, Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio processors/receivers/systems, and now Dolby Atmos and DTS-X decoders/receivers/systems, etc.)

  3. There is a proposal for a Museum of Popular Culture to be created in conjunction with the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Your ideas could be one room in that museum and later be a traveling display. The room could be a partially restored video store with all the exhibits in between the racks. After a while it could travel to the Museum of Modern Art, San Diego Comic Con, and art museums like the King Tut Exhibit did.

    One suggestion: Instead of Media Home Entertainment, you should highlight Meda Home Entertainment. That’s the original Media Home Ent. which was created by producer/director Charles Band. He licensed all the movies people like myself wanted to see instead of just licensing Fox Studio movies which I had already seen at the theater. Meda was the 2nd video company in existance but the more interesting of the two. Band licensed Halloween, Pink Flamingos, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Magical Mystery Tour, Tunnel Vision, Flesh Gordon, Assault on Precinct 13, YesSongs, Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, The Groove Tube and more.

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