If, like most Americans in the mid to late-’80s, you quit your law firm in the city to move to the boonies and open a video store amid the Great VHS Boom, you were probably fairly clueless on the subject and immediately found yourself struck with the most imperative decision of your new business venture: what do you stock your shop with?
You turn to your family for answers: your boy says “Freddy”, whoever that is; your daughter suggests anything with Johnny Depp; your wife offers something classic. All fine suggestions, but what do the people want? At a retail price of $99.95 a piece, video cassettes at the time were too pricey to simply buy blindly. That’s where promotional videos come in. In a pre-Google world, movie distribution companies — wanting to secure some video store shelf space — would send these promotional tapes directly to video store proprietors.
These promos are a rare and particularly charming breed from the early days of the video store. Most seem to be narrated (jubilantly) by the same person, but the real winners are the ones hosted by the horror icons who are trying to get their respective franchises on the shelves of video stores across America. Freddy and Chucky have never sounded scarier (or more desperate.)
Make no mistake: these are no ordinary trailers. In these videos you’ll hear the narrator mention terms foreign to the average viewer, terms like “units”, “markets”, and “distributors”, and other extraneous details like what cities these movies performed best in. If anything, these videos serve as a reminder of just how hard it was — not to mention expensive — to run a little rinky-dink video shop. Gotta love it. Enjoy!
And I’m not for certain these next three were distributor promotional videos, in fact I’m almost positive they’re not, but their vibes are so similar that I’d be remiss not to include them.