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VHS shelved in favor of DVD quality, efficiency

By David Chang

Jun. 13, 2004 9:00 pm

“VHS rules,” proclaimed fourth-year religious
studies student Walter Morales. “I’m so over DVDs.
I’m bringing back VHS.”

Good luck. As enthusiastic as the old-school Morales is about
leading a VHS return to glory, the cold hard truth is that the DVD
has replaced VHS as the OWW (Only Way to Watch). Since the late
1990s, DVDs have gradually taken over college dorms and apartments,
jockeying for positions on shelves and in storage bins, and most
students wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Can you even buy VHS in most stores?” asked
fourth-year history and business economics student Steve Araiza,
who owns roughly 40 DVDs, from pride and joy “The
Highlander” to questionable lowlight “Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles.”

In fact, the Best Buy store in Westwood has not received any
shipments of VHS in almost two years.

It’s technological evolution cruising on by, and Araiza,
whose latest purchase was “The West Wing: Season Two,”
is one of many along for the ride.

“I’m kind of obsessed with new technology. I always
have to have the new gadgets,” said fourth-year geography
student Katie Larivey, whose DVD collection numbers in the hundreds
and recently welcomed action thriller “Point Break”
into the fold. “I never liked VHS; it’s just so big and
I don’t like rewinding it to find a spot. DVD is so

According to Jonathan Kuntz, a visiting assistant professor in
film, DVD is simply following in the footsteps of VHS as an
ancillary market for Hollywood to make money off the same

“Hollywood makes movies and shows them in theaters, and
then maybe shows them on TV. But in the 1970s, they figured out
another way, which is to create videocassettes. This was so
successful that by the 1990s, the prerecorded videocassette market
was as big as the theatrical market for Hollywood,” said
Kuntz. “And they quite naturally wanted to hang on to that.
When DVDs came along in the late 1990s, it gradually shifted from
videocassette to DVD, and they’ve done that quite

Skillfully, as in offering a four-disc package, replete with an
extended version, theatrical trailers, hours of commentary and
interviews, and other digital goodies, for each film in “The
Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Skillfully, as in creating
alternate endings for the “Se7en” Platinum Edition

“In the last four years, (the industry) has introduced
fancier and more attractive, more innovative “˜bonus’
features, but it’s also gotten more excessive,” said

But extra behind-the-scenes footage does not necessarily play a
big role in students’ purchasing decisions.

Larivey, who, since her senior year in high school averages
about two or three DVD purchases per month, finds reissues such as
10th anniversary editions and director’s cuts rather

“Totally annoying. (The industry) tries to trick you into
buying it again,” she said.

Like most technological advancements, DVDs and DVD players have
gradually dropped in price during the last few years, making them
the norm in homes and dorm rooms.

“(The industry) discovered that if they drop the price
below $20, they can sell an unbelievable pile of DVDs. They make it
so that people buy them without feeling like they’re spending
a fortune,” said Kuntz. “After all, it costs $10 to see
a movie today.”

DVD also trumps VHS in the all-important category of quality.
Grainy videos and tracking are relics of the past. DVD offers high
definition widescreen and surround sound, making this passing of
the torch a virtual no-brainer.

“Even my parents buy DVDs now, so there must be something
to it,” said Araiza.

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David Chang
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