In the early days of VHS & BETA, did it really cost 80 - 100 bucks to buy a movie?

Indeed. When my father bought our first VCR in the early '80s from Curtis-Mathis, the very first video he bought for my mother was “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

And the two-tiered system did last, at least for some releases, well into the '90s. I remember trying to obtain a copy of “Mr Holland’s Opus” for my mother when it was available to rent, and couldn’t. At least not for less than a hundred bucks. I finally conned Blockbuster into selling me one previously viewed copy, but it was seriously a hassle.

I grew up in the 80’s … does anyone remember the disc-type rental medium that was about the size of an LP, but was encased in a plastic case? I’m not talking laser discs… it was years before that. You rented the players and the discs… and, if i’m recalling right, the player was like 8.00 a night and the discs were 5.00 each.

Pretty reasonable at the time i guess. We rented plenty of them and I recall times staying up all night watching these movies that we rented (probably because they were due back the next day sharp :).

Was this just a rental thing, or did people actually buy these players, buy the movies and have libraries?

The only movie I specifically remember watching in this format was Streets of Fire

True on the price, but not completely on the quality, at least, not the ones my husband bought. His mother bought a VTR (many people referred to them as Video Tape Recorders back then) in 1978 and he paid that much for blank tapes to tape music videos (long before MTV started) on shows like Rockline. We met in late 1982 and he was the only person I knew who had a VTR. We still have all those original tapes (plus a few thousand besides) and they all still work (link is to some of the things he’s put on YouTube). He, and later, we, always used the slowest recording speed to get as much as we could on the tapes (generally 3 HBO movies would fit per tape…I cringe to think about it).

The first pre-recorded movies we bought were One From The Heart, and then Return To Oz. Both were around $80.

sweepkick, are you thinking of the RCA SelectaVision? It wasn’t a laser disc, but rather used a stylus and groove for playback and came encased in a caddy which you put in the machine so your fingers never touched the disc. They were available for both rental and consumer purchase, but RCA didn’t make much profit on the system and discontinued it in 1986.


Not laser discs, and it was back in about 1983 or 1984, maybe even earlier. Our family would rent movies–and the player, too. It was pre-VCR-era, before they were common household objects.

I thought it was just me who remembered that format. Definitely LP size, plastic was involved, and it was not a laser disc. I’ve even tried to Google obsolete formats without success just to figure out what it was. It didn’t last long–my mother wanted a VCR, got one, and never looked back.

That sure looks like what I vaguely remember. We’re not nuts! (Everyone told me I was thinking of laser discs, and I wasn’t.)

…and here’s a fun site. Interesting stuff!

We got our first VCR in 1985, IIRC. One of the first movies we bought was a pre-rented copy of Gandhi. $80.00.

Indeed. My daughter wanted Shanghai Noon for her birthday, but it was almost $100.

We rented our first VCR around 1983, just to see if we liked it. They were reasonably expensive back then. Also, almost all video stores were locally owned then. Smaller selection, but more eclectic.

Some things I remember from my youth:

When The Rocky Horror Picture Show was first released on video, it was selling at Target for $79.95.

In the mid-80s, I can remember the first movie I ever bought: Alice, Sweet Alice, starring a young Brooke Shields. I only bought it because it sold for $5.27, cheaper than the price of a blank tape. Hey, I can tape over it, I thought. Though, even then they were putting out tapes that were only as long as the length of the movie.

Well, I don’t know the difference betweent a vcr and a vtr so maybe the quality of the vcr was my problem, but my first recorder was made by rca (i am sure it was the same as japanese version jvc) as were the tapes. By recording at a higher speed, which limited you to one movie per tape you could improve the quality, but like you i put 3 movies on one tape, which was my own fault, but who could afford 25 bucks to record one movie?

I remember one morning at work. A guy came in and wanted to buy the fire extiguishers he needed for his business. While someone went back to get them, my boss asked the guy what kind of business he was opening. The guy replied he was opening a store where people could rent video tapes and players. After he left the boss told me the new business would never make it…

I remember going into my first video store (for buying, not renting) back in late 1982 or early 1983. Very limited selection, and all very expensive.

As I recall, the first straight-to-$19.95 movie was Top Gun, and they made a very big deal about it. Pepsi sponsored the cheap release, and it was heavily promoted on TV.

I was a kid during the 80s but I have memories of one blank VCR tape being a fantastic birthday\Christmas present.

I bought a movie for an old boyfriend and it cost me $70. (Eraserhead, if anyone’s interested). That was in the early 80s.

Our first video rental account required a $100 deposit before they’d let you rent.


Is this why he’s an old boyfriend now?

I remember when Fangoria started carrying ads for VHS tape sales and some of those movies (which had limited releases to begin with) could run into the $200 to $300 dollar range for a single tape.

I also remeber conning my parents into buying a copy of Monster Squad for like $80, which we watched approximately 35 billion times.

I don’t remember what they were called (video disc?), but I remember watching “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan” on that format at computer camp in 1983.

I remember that RCA Selectavision put out The Beatles’ “Let It Be” on that disc format to entice people to buy a machine to watch it. It had never been in public release before. (And except for a very limited issue on VHS, it hasn’t been issued since.) I have a videotape of the CED disc, during which the stylus skipped through about 8 minutes of the movie. That was one of the drawbacks of the format.

And, of course, I bought Shanghai Noon (good movie for what it is) for less than $20 on DVD a couple weeks after it was released. (It was one of the first DVDs I got after I got my PS2 on launch day.) Were they really still charging that much for a VHS release in 2000?

You’ve gotta understand, the last set of VHS I bought was Gunbuster several years ago, when it looked like Magna would never get around to releasing it on DVD. Oh, and the pilot of Stargate SG-1, before the season DVD releases started. (It was less than $10 and I had seen every Season 1 episode in syndication except the pilot.)