Valenti was referring to videocassette recorders, the big boxes rolling out of Japanese factories circa 1980 that could make or play copies of movies at minimal cost. He called them a “parasitical instrument” and told Congress in 1982: “The VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone.” Filmmakers heeded him: Steven Spielberg refused to release E.T. to the home video market for six years.
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It would empty theaters and drain studio coffers. Why would anyone venture out to multiplexes when films could be disseminated virtually free and viewed in the convenience of your own home?
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