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Friday, August 12, 2016

Freaky Fridays: "Sell-Through" Videocassettes?

At the dawn of the videocassette revolution, the major studios weren't fully onboard with the new technology. Many of them, even Disney, had sued the companies that produced the videocassette equipment. When Hollywood decided to embrace the new tech, the conventional wisdom was that customers would want to rent but not own the movies. Since the videocassettes were not meant for consumers, the studios priced them at $99.95. When Disney decided to dip its toe in the videocassette business, it priced its first batch like the rest- at $99.95 each.


Among the first batch of videocassettes released were films on Disney's "B Team"- Alice in Wonderland, Pete's Dragon among others. Assuming that the Disney name would result in bigger sales, the company produced a huge batch of videocassettes that sold briskly, but not as much as Disney had anticipated.

The huge amount of unsold stock raised important questions at Disney- first off, were the lower than expected sales because the films on offer were from the company's lower tier of movies? And how could the company get rid of its overstock? They decided to try clearing them out at the rock bottom price of $29.95 at Fotomats across the country. They even threw in a hokey trucker hat with each purchase. 

Every proper young lady wears her Sunday best- and a trucker hat!

What happened was phenomenal. The videocassettes flew out of Fotomats faster than anything ever had in its history. Despite the lower tier offerings paired with a fashion faux pas, people really responded to the limited time sale. Disney sold out weeks earlier than expected. When a smaller inventory allocated to DISNEYLAND also sold out in record time (and without the stylish hats) the company knew it had something. Soon every Disney animated release would be priced at $29.95 or less. Walt Disney Home Video had invented a gold mine for its parent company.

The birthplace of the Disney home entertainment phenomenon.