Know It All: The First Movie Commercially Released on VHS

Most people seem to know that Twister represented the maiden flight for the now-standard format of DVD, in 1997 (and if you didn’t already know that… well, that’s a freebie on top of this week’s main lesson). However, the origin story of the once-ubiquitous VHS remains criminally untold and mysterious, for whatever reason. No more!

Everybody has that moment when they realize they don’t know about something that they should probably know about. Whether it has to do with history, language, science, or simply cultural phenomena, you’ve felt the stinging personal embarrassment of a moment wherein you realize there’s some common knowledge that isn’t so common. Don’t feel bad; nobody knows everything. Nobody, that is, except me and my sidekick, The Internet!

Somewhere in the world, a confused soul begs the question…

What was the first movie commercially released on VHS?

Most people seem to know that Twister represented the maiden flight for the now-standard format of DVD, in 1997 (and if you didn’t already know that… well, that’s a freebie on top of this week’s main lesson). However, the origin story of the once-ubiquitous VHS remains criminally untold and mysterious, for whatever reason. No more!

The first theatrical film ever released to the public on VHS was the South Korean drama, The Young Teacher, in 1976. Anyone – supergenius or not — could learn this rather easily, via Google.

However, the truth about the first commercially available VHS films in the United States is a much more difficult story to crack, even in an age dominated by information. But that’s what I’m here for.

According to Frederick Wasser’s Veni, Vidi, Video, the American home video market was essentially born in 1977, courtesy of an audio/video firm called Magnetic Video. At the time, Twentieth Century Fox was a company struggling through dire financial straits (despite the ridiculously successful May 25th release of a flick called Star Wars) and looking to generate some sort of revenue beyond box office ticket sales. Magnetic’s founder Andre Blay took advantage of these circumstances, paying Fox for the home video licensing rights to fifty of the studio’s films. And with that, a now extremely prominent entertainment market roared to life.

The first three American flicks released on VHS? The Sound of Music, Patton, and M*A*S*H (at an average retail cost of $50-$70, each).

Now you know.

Justin Brown is a writer and artist living in Virginia. He channels most of his mind's molten river of creativity into his blog Esteban Was Eaten!. For even more information about him, check out his website.

  • http://www.vcx.com David

    The first commercially available VHS was “The Devil in Miss Jones”, a XXX classic that was sold to theater patrons as they left the adult cinemas in New York and later California in 1976. Retail price was $95. For the first couple of years, the only blank videotape available was from VCX, who had a TDK exclusive contract. The biggest billboard on Times Square advertised TDK blank cassettes, available only from VCX. VCX was the original adult company, founded in the early 1960′s by Norm Arno. Their business of selling 8mm”loops” morfed into big budget productions and theatrical licensing in the 70′s.