By Diane McAllen (Digital Programme Developer, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
Earlier this year we screened Rewind This (2013), an American documentary that celebrated the VHS format. The documentary featured an array of angles on the demise of this physical format: from enthusiasts who revel in the hunt for the rare and fantastic VHS limited editions, to the filmmakers and distributors at the height of the launch of VHS tape onto the domestic market.
On the opening night we invited Andrew Armitage, Louise McCrone, and David Summerfield to contribute to a panel discussion following the screening. We primarily wanted to know what impact VHS and its subsequent demise had had on New Zealand. We discovered on the night that we could have scheduled hours for the discussion. Here is a snapshot of the topics we covered:
Andrew Armitage opened the doors of the Aro Video Shop in 1989, with a collection of VHS tapes to cater for urbanite tastes beyond the mainstream. In this clip from the panel discussion he recounts what motivated him to go into the video rental trade, and the transition to DVD:
David Summerfield is an avid VHS enthusiast and collector. In this clip he talks about what drew him to VHS, the nostalgia, and a little about the VHS collector scene in New Zealand. Andrew adds that New Zealand was seen as a rental rather than a collector’s market, and mentions the impact of classification legislation on the distribution of cult videos in New Zealand:
Louise McCrone talks about the concerns of preserving and making accessible content that is contained within over 50,000 VHS tapes in Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s collection:
In a constantly changing world, where consumers are now searching online and through digital platforms to engage with moving image content, what will become of the content that may – for whatever reason – only be available on VHS? How much does nostalgia for the past, or someone else’s trash, drive the love for the VHS medium? What about the value of the curated selection, or the video store attendant who knows the customers taste through years of contact?
Distribution of movies on VHS were also marketed differently to today. There was an assortment of movie trailers (often of content not released in New Zealand) and cover art that resulted in a tactile relationship to the medium, which isn’t so easily replicated, today, in a digital world.