Video Rental History

In 1977, the home entertainment and video rental industry technically began when Andre Blay licensed the right to copy fifty titles from 20th Century Fox for re-sale in both the Betamax and Vhs video formats, and started Magnetic Video Corporation. The first recognized ”video rental store” occurred late in 1977, when George Atkinson paid $3000 for one each of  Betamax and Vhs, of each of the first 50 titles from Magnetic Video Corp and established 'The Video Station' from a storefront on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. He charged $50 for an "annual membership" and $100 for a "lifetime membership," which provided the opportunity to rent the videos for $10 a day, half what he asked in 1977. Before he sold his stake in the company, The Video Station had grown to more than 600 'affiliate' stores. Mr. Atkinson died of emphysema in 2005 at age 69.

Another pioneering entity entered the scene in December 1979, when FotoMat photo finishing rented videos through kiosks in shopping mall parking lots. Customers would browse through a catalog, call a number and order the movie or movies of their choice. The following day, the customer would pick up the cassette at the FotoMat kiosk of their choice. The rental cost was $12 per title (the equivalent of $39.36 in 2016) and the customer could keep it for five days.

Many people don't remember that “renting” a tape for a one time viewing was a very controversial act in its beginning and spawned a landmark federal court case between SONY and Universal Studios & Walt Disney Productions popularly known as "The Betamax Case". The studios only intended for people to “buy” the studios' video tapes for their own personal, private use. Although protected by provisions that disallowed the purchaser any right to exhibit and charge admissions, the studios never realized that the federal courts would uphold an individual's personal right to “time shift” their recorded television viewing or “rent” for personal viewing pleasure, another tape owner's personally purchased video tape. This misstep by the studios cost them, but the popularity of video rental and the home video entertainment industry made the studios hundreds of billions of dollars over the following couple of decades, and still does today. It also provided for a time, an ample supply of good, some bad, but many, uniquely different video entertainment experiences in the form of video tapes. Be it cinema or television sourced or direct to video, these “entertainments” found niches of small, interested fan enthusiasts who sought out these hard to find video releases to own. They became video collectors.