Andre Blay, creator of the video rental revolution, dead at 81

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Sep 7, 2018, 7:17 PM EDT (Updated)

If you grew up in the 1980s and became a fan of horror and sci-fi films, you have Andre Blay to thank. The first man to see the profitability of feature films on VHS, Blay died on Aug. 24 in Bonita Springs, Florida. He was 81 years old.

A native of Michigan, Blay started Magnetic Video Corp. in 1969. In 1977, MVC became the first company to release theatrical films on VHS and Betamax. He reached out to the major motion picture studios, asking for permission to put their films on tape, and 20th Century Fox was the only one who responded. The studio licensed 50 early films to MVC. This led to the creation of Video Club of America. Subscribers would pay a $10 fee to join the club, then $49.95 for each video they wanted to buy. Expensive, yes, but 9,000 members joined initially.

This business model eventually became the basis for Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, and other similar video rental companies. The Consumer Electronics Association credits Blay with essentially creating the video rental revolution.

Studios made a huge profit off VHS sales and rentals (and, later, DVD and digital). In the 1980s, it was the perfect way to consume massive amounts of horror and sci-fi. Back then, the genre was considered "lowbrow," which caused adults to shy away from seeing the films in theaters. Kids were not allowed into R-rated movies. And studios discovered that they could make just as much money -- sometimes even more -- by releasing films direct to VHS, bypassing expensive distribution and theatrical costs. This all added up to a glut of genre films being made available to rent, and an audience thirsty for more.

In 1979, Fox bought out MVC for $7.5 million, and installed Blay as the first executive of the studio's newly created home video division. After a few years, Blay left to start his own company, but instead joined Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio at Embassy Communications to run their new home entertainment division. While there, he was instrumental in raising the funding for The Princess Bride.

After leaving Embassy, Blay formed Palisades Entertainment Group with producer Elliott Kastner. As an executive producer, Blay worked on mostly genre projects, including The Prince of Darkness, They Live, and Village of the Damned (1995), all directed by John Carpenter. Other projects with his name on them include The Blob and Brain Damage.

Andre Blay is survived by his wife Nancy, son Robert, daughter Cynthia, and five grandchildren.

 (via Hollywood Reporter)

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