When film began there was only one way to see it; at a cinema. Once a film’s theatrical run was finished it was useless, like a stage play that had run its course, so used films were simply burned by distributors, which is why barely 20% of the films made during the silent era survive today.

Film Releases Home EntertainmentAlthough distributors stop burning out-of-date films and studios started keeping copies of all their releases in the twenties, for a long time cinema remained the only way in which films could be viewed. Two things changed that; the arrival of TV and the home entertainment market.

These days more than half a film’s value is tied up in release markets other than traditional theatrical, and big budget films simply would not be cost-effective without TV and the rest of the home entertainment market.

Home Entertainment

Home entertainment covers a whole range of different film release options.

  • Popular films will always end up on TV, first on pay-to-view channels then on network television.
  • First there was video, then there was DVD, and now Blu-Ray. DVD has provoked its own minor revolution in film release through supplemental material.
  • New release markets have always posed an initial problem for studios as they struggle to find a way to use them, but none has caused (and continues to cause) as much hassle as the internet. The internet has made the distribution of illegal copies of films so much easier, and with multiple sites (legal and illegal) offering films to view via download, the industry is still searching for the best way to exploit the medium.

There have always been those who say that home entertainment is killing the film industry (Hollywood took a very long time to see TV as anything other than an enemy), but in fact, when you look at the big picture, home entertainment has been the film industry’s greatest friend. Think about a great film like The Shawshank Redemption, it failed upon its theatrical release,, but found its audience on TV and video; now it’s considered a classic.

Had home entertainment not existed Shawshank’s box office failure would have doomed it to obscurity, and a great film would have vanished without a trace. And it’s not just recent films that benefit; The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life, Buster Keaton’s The General, are all films now recognised as classics which originally tanked on release; films that found a new life thanks to home entertainment.