Sure, the “VHS era” ended more than a decade ago with the arrival of DVDs, and then streaming video, but now it’s official: the last VCR will roll off the assembly line in 2016. Here’s a look at some other big lasts in the world of VHS.
The Last VCR
By 2012, two companies still made VCRs: Panasonic and Funai, both headquartered in Japan. Panasonic ejected from the business that year, leaving Funai the last company standing. As of July 2016, Funai will also press “STOP” on VCR production. A Funai spokesperson said that it no longer makes economic sense for the company to make videocassette players when the main market for the format are families and institutions that want to transfer home movies and old educational materials, respectively, to digital formats. That means Funai will now produce “combo” VHS-DVD machines. In 2015, Funai manufactured 750,000 VCRs; that’s a lot, but down from the 15 million it churned out in 2000.
VCR’s have been readily available, but new content hasn’t been. The last movies released on VHS came out a decade ago. The last major Hollywood release on videotape in the U.S. was the 2005 movie A History of Violence. In Europe, it was the 2006 fantasy Eragon. Late in 2006, Disney/Pixar made a very small run of VHS copies of Cars.
VHS vs. Betamax
VHS won the home video “format war” of the early ‘80s. Developed by JVC but sold by many companies, VHS tapes were cheaper and more plentiful than Sony’s technically superior but expensive and proprietary Betamax. VHS was the industry standard by 1986, but blank Betamax tapes were still produced for a small but loyal consumer group. The last Betamax tapes came out of a Sony factory in November 2015.
At its peak, there were 9,000 Blockbuster Video locations where consumers could rent videotapes, and then DVDs. Competition from Netflix and Redbox led to the company’s bankruptcy in 2010. The remaining 1,700 stores were sold to Dish Network, who slowly shut down almost all locations by 2013. As of 2016, there are 15 Blockbuster Video stores left, but all are independently owned and operated by franchisees that have paid Dish Network for the right to use the once mighty Blockbuster name.