VHS Will Ruin Movies Forever

by Chris McGinty
I read an article that was referencing an interview with Jack Nicholson from the 80s. In the interview, he was expressing his concerns with home video ruining movies. When I started reading, I thought it would be because people now had the ability to examine movies for flaws and nitpick performances, but it of course ended up being about the perception that he was losing money because he wasn’t getting paid royalties for Prizzi’s Honor in some South American market. I realized that this was another instance of two basic problems with working artists and businesses in general.

The first is that working artists forget that the majority of artists don’t earn money. I understand that Jack Nicholson wasn’t making millions at that point, but he wasn’t going to see a lot from South America at that time anyway… probably. I wasn’t paying that much attention to economics at that time. It was a perceived loss that probably didn’t really exist. Meanwhile, I have to call my writing “a hobby that I’m passionate about,” because otherwise people will tell me that I’m wasting my time. Meanwhile, I could be the worst writer in the world, but if I was making bank it would legitimize me. By the 80s, Nicholson had certainly lost sight of that.

Another example was the perceived loss of music sales back in the peer to peer days. I’m sure there was some legitimate loss, but pretty much nothing I downloaded was a loss for them. It was either out of print or I would have bought it used, meaning that even if I bought those albums, they would have seen no money from the sale. But they certainly argued that they lost money from every single download on peer to peer services, and it was in the billions in their minds.

The other thing is just people not adapting to the changing market. This is a common reason businesses fail. They try to hold onto a product or service that has ceased to have a real demand. It happens in art as well. While I agree with Martin Scorsese to some extent that modern movies are losing a certain cinematic quality, it’s just the direction the art form is going. It’s not going to be for everyone.

We’re all going to have to adapt to the way the market is shifting. This is clearly not a new thing or VCR tapes would not have threatened to ruin movies. People are concerned about streaming and home theater and AI, but it just means that you don’t make as much money as you used to, or you adapt to a new way of making that money. Jack Nicholson seems to have landed on his feet, so it’s likely anyone who is willing to adapt will be just fine.

Chris McGinty is a blogger who also wishes he had made more in Prizzi’s Honor royalties in the 80s.

Leave a Reply