Monday, December 8, 2008

Worldwide VHS ex-rentals and the demise of Indie companies

Being a fan of many genres that have lost gems, movies that will never be released and will never see the light of day, I see myself searching more and more for old ex-rental VHS tapes. But they get more and more expensive. I recently bought a VHS tape that could have got me 7 DVD’s. That is 7 more DVD’s for my collection, but instead, I bought and old Greek ex-rental VHS. Sure, I’m a movie collector, not a DVD collector, so it is a good entry to my collection, but they cost shitloads! THE RAPE AFTER went for over $150, and RAMBU for over $120. Do you actually know how much that is, with the currency rate right now? It’s shitloads in Norway.

Luckily, we have many companies now a day that release these rare titles. But there are also bootleg DVD’s and some download sites that have these kinds of titles. But if you, like me, are a collector, you want the real deal. You shouldn’t support that kind of thing, when we have good people who release rare titles for us, and barely makes money out of it. Just see how many indie DVD companies that had to shut down last year:

PANIK HOUSE, SUBVERSIVE, CASA NEGA, BARREL etc. They're all gone. Why? Because sales suck right now.” - Don May Jr – President of Synapse Films

I also think that the quality speaks to people. I see a lot of the people I know, buy VHS tapes of movies that they probably have double dipped on DVD already, but they love the old look, and the old and rare covers.

Let’s say; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I have it on many DVD’s and Blu-ray, but I still love the grainy VHS look. Because it is a gritty and dirty movie, it should be viewed on those terms. Another friend of mine, a while back bought a really expensive Japanese ex-rental VHS of CALAMITY OF SNAKES, and a couple of months after he bought it, it was released on a Eastern Horror box set. He used $300 on this VHS, because of its reputation for being such a huge Asian cult film, and then two months later, he could get it for $20. So sometimes it’s better to wait. Because there are so many companies that release these kinds of titles at the moment. It’s just so sad that the DVD industries are doing badly, so that they don’t dare to put out the most bizarre of the bizarre amongst worldweird cinema. But I can’t complain. They release some really weird stuff, which is good enough for me.

A rare piece of cinema is always good. So keep supporting indie DVD companies, so that we can get these titles on DVD. Ex-rental VHS is also good, but who wouldn’t mind movies like RAMBU on DVD? I’m pointing my finger at you Mondo Macabro. Release it!

I also had a chat with Don May Jr, President of Synapse films, about the downfall of DVD purchases and the ever-growing world of downloading.

BMA - I know that Synapse films have been focusing on Ozploitation, or Australian cinema lately, which is great, but what will be the next step for you?

DMJ - The ONLY step we're taking right now is how to stay in business. Last year, nine DVD companies went belly up and the industry and market for independent DVD companies is the worst it's ever been. Sales are way down and we're just trying to do films that will continue to sell for us. Seems to be working so far, but one misstep on a title and it could be the end. People really need to support all us indie DVD companies by buying our titles, instead of downloading illegally or renting (which seems to be the reason we're all suffering).

BMA - You mentioned that downloading and rental are hurting the DVD business. But considering the titles you release, don't you feel that you have very dedicated fans and that you appeal to DVD collectors and the fans of the genres you release? Most of the people who love these genres are dedicated collectors and will buy your DVD’s no matter what. I for one would never think about downloading any Synapse title, or any title by an indie company.

DMJ - Being in this business for almost 20 years, I know we have dedicated fans but the sales have decreased exponentially in the past 3-4 years. Those fans, if they are dedicated, have decided to stop buying like they used to, for whatever reason. The economy is bad, people don't have disposable income and the faster speed on the Internet is all contributing to decreased sales. With the advent of NETFLIX and BLOCKBUSTER.COM, people are renting, burning the DVDs for themselves and sending them right back. It happens... I know there are people who are true, dedicated collectors and fans, but there are a LOT of people who just bootleg.

When there were slower Internet speeds and no online rentals, people HAD to buy our product to get it. Now they don't and the sales are waning. It's just a sad fact of the business and economy and it sucks. People who bootleg and download don't realize how much it hurts the smaller companies. They just don't think about it and now look... great companies like PANIK HOUSE, SUBVERSIVE, CASA NEGA, BARREL, etc. They’re all gone. Why? Because sales suck right now... but they’re stuff is all readily available with a few click on any torrent site. They were victims of slagging sales. And, to a certain extent, ELITE and UNEARTHED have slowed releases to a crawl because there's just no money to be made.

BMA - I can see that you have more information on this then I have, because I would never think that people who are fans of exploitation/the weird and Bizarre, Euro-crime, horror etc, would download. And as you said, they don't know how much they hurt indie companies.

DMJ - One only needs to look at website like to see that many of our fans have decided to bootleg and download our DVDs instead of buy them. This is just ONE example of the many, many offshore website that contribute to indie companies' demises.

BMA - I read something interesting the other day. You are in fact, just two people behind Synapse films. Correct? How do you manage to do all the work? Because I have to say that I see the love in your titles, and I see that you put a lot of hard work into this.

DMJ - Believe me, we'd hire more people if we could, but the sad fact is we CAN'T afford it. There's just not enough sales these days to bring anyone else onboard with Synapse. I work every day of the week for Synapse. I'm just used to it, I guess.. it's hard, but it's the only way to survive right now.


Jack J said...

"So sometimes it’s better to wait"

Yeah, if you're 21 y.o. but like Fred Adelman says "I don't HAVE the time to wait!". Too right! If you're an old geezer like Fred then you don't wanna sit around for 5 years and wait for a freaking dvd release just in order to save a few bob (or even a shitload of dollars) on a vhs! I paid way over a 100 dollars for my RAMBU as well and TODAY I paid around $80 for an Aussie ex-rental of CLEOPATRA WONG simply to get it letterboxed. Is that insane? Sure it is! Hell, I wish there were proper dvd releases of these movies so I finally could stop buying tapes and spend my money on becoming an alcoholic instead.
(now, the last bit there is a joke obviously but you get my point)

Jack J said...

Oh, and by the way; as I think I've mentioned to you before: I got lucky and got my THE RAPE AFTER tape from a Japanese book store in Canada at the price of 23 measly dollars! YAY!

And you're right about the download shit. I want a cover goddammit!! How can these people be content with some shitty dvd-r copies with handwritten titles all over them!!

Treasures By Brenda said...

So many movies are just going to be gone forever...they never made the transition from VHS to DVD. That's sad.

I hope you're looking after your VHS collections properly which will help them last.

Be sure to drop by my page about Rare VHS Tapes.