MVD Adds Five Titles to Its ‘Rewind Collection’

MVD Entertainment Group has added five classic films on Blu-ray and DVD to its MVD Rewind Collection, which celebrates video store culture. They include Action U.S.A. (1989), Drive (1997), Mortuary (1983), The House on Sorority Row (1982) and The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films (2014), each loaded with extras.

“I’m excited to be working with our great content partners to bring both Drive and The Go-Go Boys to Blu-ray for the first time, and to give collectors a second chance to pick up Action U.S.A., Mortuary and The House on Sorority Row on disc once again,” Eric D. Wilkinson, MVD director of acquisitions and producer of the MVD Rewind Collection, said in a statement. “I’m a geek for video store culture and our packaging reflects that. It gives fans that lived through the video store era an opportunity to enjoy the nostalgia, and for our younger collectors, they get to experience these for the very first time, just as they were.”

Due May 11 is Action U.S.A. In the 1989 film, after her boyfriend is murdered by the gangsters whose diamonds he stole, a girl is protected by two FBI agents who plan to keep her from sharing the same fate. It stars Gregory Scott Cummins (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” Cliffhanger), Ross Hagen (Armed Response), Cameron Mitchell (How to Marry a Millionaire) and Barri Murphy (Armed for Action). Originally released on VHS by Imperial Entertainment, MVD Rewind Collection brings this cult classic action film to disc in conjunction with Verdugo Entertainment. Blu-ray bonus material include audio commentary with director John Stewart, star Cummins and cinematographer Thomas Callaway moderated by filmmaker Steve Latshaw; an interview with Stewart; a behind-the-scenes stunt featurette; the theatrical trailer; a mini-poster; reversible artwork; and, for the first pressing only, a limited edition retro slipcover that celebrates the rental packaging of legendary video store chain Erol’s Video (1980-1990).

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Also due May 11 is Drive, which follows a prototype enhanced human from Hong Kong who enlists help from a hostage and a free-spirited woman to evade killers-for-hire in a race against time in order to get from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Originally released in 1997 from A-Pix Entertainment, Drive makes its debut on Blu-ray with a brand new 4K HD scan of the original camera negative of the extended director’s cut of the movie. The cast includes Mark Dacascos (John Wick 3: Parabellum), Kadeem Hardison (White Men Can’t Jump), Brittany Murphy (Clueless), Sanaa Lathan (Alien vs Predator), Tracey Walter (Repo Man) and Ron Yuan (Mulan). Special features on Blu-ray include audio commentary by director Steve Wang, fight choreographer Koichi Sakamoto, and stars Dacascos and Hardison; the “Drive: The Force Behind the Storm” documentary; six deleted scenes; an interview gallery with cast, director and crew, including stars Dacascos and Hardison, Wang, second unit director Wyatt Weed and stunt coordinator Koichi Sakamoto; two versions of the film, the director’s cut and the original theatrical version; the original theatrical trailer; reversible artwork; a mini-poster; and, for the first pressing only, a limited edition retro slipcover. The Drive: Director’s Cut will also be released on a standard edition DVD.

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Coming July 6 is Mortuary. In the film, convinced that her father’s death was not accidental, Christie Parson decides to investigate to find out the truth. Her sleuthing draws her to a local mortuary, where deadly secrets are revealed. Originally released on VHS from Vestron Video in 1984, the film’s cast includes Lynda Day George (TV’s “Mission Impossible”) in her final film role, Christopher George (Pieces), Bill Paxton (Aliens), Mary McDonough (“The Waltons”) and David Wallace (Humongous). The special edition Blu-ray features bonus material courtesy of Scorpion Releasing and includes an interview with composer John Cacavas; the original theatrical trailer; a mini-poster; and, for the first pressing only, a limited edition retro slipcover.

Also due July 6 is The House on Sorority Row. In the film, after a seemingly innocent prank goes horribly wrong, a group of sorority sisters are stalked and murdered one by one in their sorority house while throwing a party to celebrate their graduation. Originally released on VHS from Vestron Video in 1983, The House on Sorority Row stars Kathryn McNeil (Sudden Death), Eileen Davidson (“Days of Our Lives”), Harley Jane Kozak (Arachnophobia) and Jean Schertler (Runaway Bride). The special edition Blu-ray features bonus material courtesy of Scorpion Releasing and includes audio commentary with director Mark Rosman; audio commentary with director Rosman and stars Davidson and McNeil; interviews with cast and crew, including Rosman, Kozak, Davidson, McNeil, composer Richard Band and producer Igo Kantor; the original pre-credit sequence; alternate ending storyboards; TV spots; the theatrical trailer; reversible artwork; a mini-poster; and, for the first pressing only, a limited edition retro slipcover.

Available July 20 is The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films. This definitive documentary about Cannon films follows Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, two Israeli-born cousins who, in pursuit of the American Dream, turned the Hollywood power structure upside down, producing more than 300 films and becoming the most powerful independent film company in the world. Directed by Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee Hilla Medalia (After the Storm), The Go-Go Boys is an up close and personal documentary that examines the complex relationship between two contradictory personalities whose combined force fueled their success and eventual collapse. It features interviews with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Dudikoff, Eli Roth, Boaz Davidson and more, along with Golan and Globus themselves, as well as archive footage of Sylvester Stallone, Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris. Blu-ray special features include the original theatrical trailer; reversible artwork; a mini-poster; and, for the first pressing only, a limited edition retro slipcover.

Family Video Launches Promo to #SaveTheVideoStore

As it struggles during the pandemic, Family Video, the last major video store chain, is launching a promotional campaign called #SaveTheVideoStore to drum up consumer support.

With the help of studios and Hollywood talent such as Clerks director Kevin Smith, Family Video is bowing the campaign to celebrate physical media and generate nostalgia for the video store.

“Our plan with this campaign is to not hide from the stark reality that our business has been affected by streaming, COVID and just about everything else this year,” said senior brand manager Derek Dye. “We are hoping to pull at the heartstrings of physical media fans, video store fanatics and movie lovers as a whole to support us in this difficult time for our business.”

The campaign runs Nov. 9 to 22, boosted by a video of support for the chain from Smith, whose Clerks famously included scenes at a video store. But the major push is at the store level.

“We are going for a very grassroots initiative with our stores making signage, posters, painting the windows of our stores to get the word out,” Dye said. “We think that strategy along with the help of media outlets could help us immensely to drive traffic and awareness to our stores.”

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Battered by the pandemic and other hardships, the chain has shut down about 200 of its approximately 500 stores. It now has 300 stores in 17 states.

“It’s been a difficult year,” Dye said.

The nostalgic nature of the video store has not been lost on pop culture, even at a streaming service that is supplanting it, Netflix. Family Video has figured in previous seasons and will be featured prominently in the next season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”

Family Video T-shirt

The chain has been successfully selling Family Video retro-looking T-shirts to supplement income and capitalize on the nostalgia for video stores. Family Video has sold more than 700 of the T-shirts at $19.78 (1978 was the year the chain was established). In support of the new initiative, the chain is also selling a new  #SaveTheVideoStore shirt.

“Everybody has a fun memory of video stores,” Dye said.

He hopes the public will get the message that this institution is in trouble and needs fans to come in and support it.

The plea of the campaign, Dye said: “We need your help to save the video store.”

Iconic Video Store and Film Nonprofit Vidiots Relaunching in L.A.

Vidiots, the iconic L.A. video store-turned-film nonprofit, will relaunch in fall of 2020 as an expanded entertainment, social and community space with an adjacent video store in a new home at the historic Eagle Theatre in Los Angeles, according to the Vidiots Foundation.

Restoring the 90-year-old, 200-seat Eagle Theatre as an independent theater with state-of-the-art sound and projection (35mm and DCP), Vidiots will offer a program of repertory titles, new independents, hard-to-find gems, classics and community-driven programs. An adjacent storefront will house Vidiots’ 50,000-plus DVD, Blu-ray and rare VHS collection for rental. The location will also have a multi-purpose, second screening room for film programs, educational workshops, and special events.

Vidiots is currently fundraising and identifying Cornerstone Donors and Corporate Partners for naming rights and is also inviting First-In Founding Members. Founding Members to date include Katie Aselton and Mark Duplass, Jess Wu Calder and Keith Calder, Emily Cook, Mackenzie Davis, Rian Johnson and Karina Longworth, Phil Lord, Nate Moore, and Morgan Neville. Vidiots friend and supporter Jason Reitman is donating a 35mm projection system.

“Vidiots relaunching on the cusp of our 35th birthday is a triumph for Los Angeles film history and cements the legacy of Vidiots founders Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber as innovators in L.A. film culture,” said Vidiots executive director Maggie Mackay in a statement. “Bringing the Eagle Theatre back and providing L.A. with a long-needed new film space is thrilling. We’re deeply grateful for our valued programming partners present and future, our expert advisors, and especially our First-In Founding Members whose generosity and passionate belief in our mission have made this relaunch possible. Vidiots at the Eagle is a community space created by and for film lovers and filmmakers. We welcome and encourage everyone who believes in our mission to join us as we work towards opening in fall 2020.”

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“Los Angeles should have more movie theaters, not fewer, and Vidiots has come to give all us punch drunk film lovers another place to call home where we can roam the racks. Thank you! So grateful to be a small part of this evolving institution,” said Reitman in a statement.

“We’re thrilled that Vidiots is moving into this next chapter and that our unique library of films will once again be made available to the public, especially in this era of streaming where choices are increasingly limited,” said Vidiots founders Polinger and Tauber in a statement. “Vidiots at the Eagle Theatre is a truly exciting and ambitious plan that revolves around our commitment to archival preservation, education, and accessibility, while maintaining and growing our passionate community of film lovers.”

“When we first moved in together and merged our belongings, we became a two-VCR family — and this was in 2013,” said Longworth and Johnson in a statement. “VHS and video stores were integral to both of us becoming who we are, and we couldn’t be happier to support the evolution of Vidiots and its media library. In a world remade by streaming, it’s never been more important to preserve access to physical media for all.”

“Their efforts towards creating community and preservation made Vidiots legendary in L.A. and I’m so excited to see their philosophy and energy reincarnated in a brick-and-mortar film space on the East Side. I can’t wait to spend all my time there,” said Davis in a statement.

Recently, Vidiots launched a programming partnership with Alamo Drafthouse L.A. with the series “Tales From the Video Store.” Vidiots is currently presenting a monthly 16mm series with Projections at the Bootleg Theater. New programming partnerships with The Black List, The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, and Cinema Eye Honors will launch in late in 2019/early 2020.

Future programming and partner organizations include Art House Convergence, Film Independent, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Outfest, Oxy Arts and the Occidental Media Arts & Culture Department, Sundance Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, Women in Film, and Vidéothèque.

Vidiots was opened as an alternative video store in 1985 by L.A. natives Polinger and Tauber. For 32 years Vidiots served its community via the iconic Santa Monica storefront, which shuttered in 2017 in the wake of rising costs. With the support of Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures (which became a major donor in 2015, along with Vidiots customer Dr. Leonard Lipman), Vidiots was able to store its collection and devise an extensive plan for sustainable relaunch in a new home.

The Eagle Theatre in the 1970s

Vidiots’ new home, originally conceived as a vaudeville stage, first opened in May 1929 as The Yosemite Theatre. After a few short days, the Yosemite re-opened as an independent silent movie theater, and a year later it transitioned to sound. In 1940, The Yosemite became The Eagle Theatre. From 1976 to 1979, the theater ran as a Pussycat, part of the adult cinema chain. In 1983, The Eagle once again became a traditional independent cinema, and operated into the 1990s before becoming a series of churches.

With almost-10,000 square feet of entertainment and educational space, Vidiots will operate seven days a week and offer daily screenings and special programs, the full video store with DVD and Blu-ray rentals, concessions, and a light menu with beer and wine. The main theater (200+ seats, a stage, 35mm, DCP, and state-of-the-art sound) will host screenings and tastemaker events. A second, smaller screening and event space (approximately 50 seats with DCP projection) will host screenings, workshops, and receptions.

To make a donation and sign up for email updates, visit vidiotsfoundation.org.

Blockbuster Video’s Wayne Huizenga Dies

Billionaire entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga, who propelled Blockbuster Video into a national brand, among other businesses, has died reportedly following a long battle with cancer. He was 80.

Huizenga, who lived in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. area, excelled in many ventures including sanitation, automobile sales and hotels. A longtime sports fan, Huizenga at one time owned the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins, MLB’s Florida Marlins and NHL’s Florida Panthers.

But in 1987, Huizenga acquired a few upstart Blockbuster Video stores on a $1 million investment and grew the franchise from less than 20 locations to more than 3,700 stores globally. He sold the company to Viacom in 1994 for $8.4 billion.

At its peak, Blockbuster operated more than 9,000 stores, employing 84,300 people worldwide.

“It was sad to hear of the passing of Wayne Huizenga,” said Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). “Wayne was a true video industry pioneer. During his tenure at Blockbuster the blue and yellow stores became the symbol of video rental, and ‘Make It a Blockbuster Night’ entered the lexicon. Whether you worked for him, competed with him (as many of us did – and lost), or simply rented movies in his stores – you have to respect his impact on the in-home movie experience.”

In a 1997 interview with The Washington Post, Huizenga said that despite feeling technology would eventually render packaged media rental obsolete, he reluctantly sold Blockbuster.

“I didn’t want to sell it. I loved that business,” he told The Post.

As Netflix entered the market featuring by-mail DVD rentals, Blockbuster countered renting movies and TV shows through the mail. When Netflix launched the SVOD market, the writing was on the wall for video rental stores.

Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and was acquired in a fire sale by Dish Network. The satellite TV operator had hoped to use the remaining 1,700 Blockbuster stores to sell portable media devices, including cell phones, in addition to home entertainment.

Dish shuttered most remaining company-owned Blockbuster locations a few years later. As of last month, there remain nine Blockbuster franchise stores in operation, including two in Bend, Ore.

While many news reports suggest Huizenga founded Blockbuster, this was not the case.

Huizenga got  involved with Blockbuster two years after the chain was founded in Texas by David Cook. As he recounted in a June 2003 Fortune magazine article, “By the time I got involved, Blockbuster had already worked out some of the kinks.”

Cook, according to the Fortune story, started the video rental superstore concept in 1985 “as a way to apply what he knew about building giant databases.” He had already made his mark in the petroleum industry with the launch of David P. Cook & Associates  in 1978, which he took public in 1983.

But by then the oil industry was in trouble, and Cook went looking for something else to do. After investigating a video store franchise opportunity for a friend, he told Fortune, “I determined there might be a bigger industry there.” He opened a single superstore, in Dallas, on Oct.19, 1985. It was stocked with plenty of copies of the latest hits as well as older titles. Success came right away “The first night we were so mobbed we had to lock the doors to prevent more people from coming in,” he told Fortune.

Cook predicted his single Blockbuster might grow into 1,500 units and immediately began scouting around for more locations.  Following early success from the company’s first stores, Cook built a $6-million warehouse in Garland, Texas, using a bar-code inventory system to track the movements of 10,000 films per store. With the warehouse, he told Fortune, stores “could pop up instantly,” he told Fortune, while individual store inventories were tailored to neighborhood demographics.

Cook soon found Huizenga, “who agreed to put up about $18 million in return for voting control,” the Fortune story said. “Cook’s disagreements with one of Huizenga’s lieutenants led him to leave, taking some $20 million with him. ‘I’m clearly not the best manager in the world for a large corporation,’ says Cook, who openly admits he didn’t see it that way then. ‘I haven’t found anybody who doesn’t think Blockbuster did a whole lot better under Wayne – including me.’”