the movie video titanica began to be marketed in Spain in mid-October 1998. Only on the first day, more than 600,000 copies were purchased at the 4,000 points of sale distributed throughout the country where it could be bought.
The boom was such that some establishments opened at dawn to be the first to sell them. With such demand, it is not surprising that titanica would become the best-selling video film in history in our country (1.9 million copies). The direct sales edition on VHS of the film by james cameron, at the price of 2,995 pesetas, it reactivated the life of video stores in Spain.
“Until the early 1990s, video stores did not sell directly. titanica it was sold, mainly, in video stores, and this was what made people return to become a member, and return to buying and renting movies, because they had been a little forgotten with Canal+ and everything else”, the journalist told CINEMANIA Xavi Sanchez Pons, who has recently published The video almanac. Graphic and oral history of the video store era, edited by Herbal ills.
The film critic proposes in the book a historical, visual and fun tour for the golden age of those social centers where cinema of all kinds was distributed. He does so by paying tribute to the VHS format (which ousted Betamax as the king of home video in the 1990s), and offering a wide range of covers and anecdotes.
Like that scandal that occurred in 1990 because on the American 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 withdrew the edition from the stores”, says the author. “The urban legend tells that an illustrator dissatisfied with Disney put the penis as a form of protest. Today, the VHS is a valued collector’s item for which you can get to pay more than 300 dollars.
The home theater revolution
Although today’s teenagers may not know it, the arrival of the 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, home theater viewing 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 the movies were 10- or 15-minute abridged versions. When video arrived, you could have access to entire movies, at home, and at popular prices from the first or second year. Any family in Spain, and in the western world, could buy a video. It was like the most incredible technological breakthrough. People hung out and got together to watch movies and see what the video thing was.”
The first two Spanish video clubs opened their doors in 1980. The first of them, Video Club of Spain, It was located in Madrid’s Fortuny street and shortly after launched the first chain of video stores in the country. The other, Video Instant, It was founded by a married couple who are passionate about cinema and had its origins in a chain of copy shops.
“In the beginning, films were sold from private homes or fairs like Sonimag in Barcelona, until dozens of distributors appeared with the opening of the first video stores. Although of course, also the first problems of rights, piracy and others. It was an incredibly interesting odyssey,” he says. Jose Fernandez Rivero who in 2017 directed the documentary rewinding, where the importance of the explosion of home video in Spain is reviewed.
The Asturian filmmaker remembers with some nostalgia that golden age in which some video stores 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 tape for 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 stores”, reminisce
“Although, in reality, the great demand for titles that there was meant that anything was rented,” he points out. “And small titles that were practically included in the batches, as filler, have been, at least for me, the most important part of the video stores, since that was where we could find the essence of what that time meant, regarding the way of making and consuming cinema”.
school of cinephilia
The revolution that the arrival of home cinema meant 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 the total number of movies that were rented were horror, fantastic, B-series action films or spicy teen comedies What Meatballs in soak. That’s how they made a living. Classic cinema was seen on TV, where they used to be shown in the correct format, something that VHS did not respect by converting everything to pan and scan.
Already in the nineties, the appearance of Channel+ Y Via Digital, and the rise of the chain block buster (which put an end to family and independent video clubs) contributed to the beginning of the end in the business of these commercial establishments.
“[Los Blockbuster] They were open on Sundays and their rental prices were very low because they had so many copies. We had to adapt to that competition,” he says. Aurora Depares, director of the legendary Barcelona video club Instant Video
At the beginning of the new millennium, VHS tapes were definitively replaced by DVD (only 30% of the films that existed on VHS were edited in this new digital format). It seemed that video stores would be saved from burning thanks to the optical disk, but Internet piracy and the 2008 crisis gave them the final blow.
The decline of video stores
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 model of movie consumption,” says Fernández Riveiro.
“Cinema was no longer seen as something to enjoy with the family and society was beginning to change in certain aspects that finally meant that both video stores and the domestic format in general were practically doomed to disappear in our country,” he explains.
“Unlike in many other countries, such as the United States, where it continues to live a fairly sweet moment and where, in addition, little by little films that have only been released on VHS are being rescued,” he continues. “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 stores.”
Sánchez Pons is optimistic about the future of the physical format, and believes that DVD will survive in the streaming era. “It’s a niche that has a few thousand very loyal fans around the world,” he says. “Increasingly more collectors are going, to more elaborate editions. Something similar happened with vinyl: in the two thousand it was going to die, and now it is starring in articles on music sales.”
“Streaming is great, and I use it, but imagine that one day Netflix or HBO go bankrupt. What would happen to those movies? 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 has to exist, so that the cultural products are not lost”, he concludes.