The CED player was first conceived by RCA in 1964, but production didn’t begin until 1981, when technology finally caught up with the idea.
By the time RCA gave up on their SelectaVision VideoDisc player at the end of 1984, the failed CED project represented a $600 million loss for the company.
Picture quality wasn’t much better or worse than VHS or standard TV broadcasts, as I recall. None of the discs had extra features or offered the movie in the widescreen letterboxed format…
…except for Woody Allen’s Manhattan, which…
I specifically recall a few titles featuring opening credit sequences that were letterboxed– with odd patterns standing in for the “black bars” (3 Days Of The Condor), or with glaring orange/yellow bars (Up In Smoke)– but, once the movie proper started, it was full-frame/pan-and-scan all the way…until, possibly, the end credit sequence.
If memory serves, my dad once told me he paid around $200 for our player (in 1982). In today’s dollars, that same player would run around…
…which, back then, was still cheaper than a VHS player (for a short while, anyway).
Toward the end of 1982, perhaps early 1983, while shopping at Northpark Mall in Davenport, Iowa, I found the videodisc of Friday The 13th in the Musicland store, bearing a price tag of $27.
I had ten bucks and tried to talk my dad into giving me the rest of the money. He refused, reminding me that he’d already seen Friday The 13th and thought it was boring, not worth $27…which in today’s dollars would be around…
I remember being angry with him that he wouldn’t help me buy that videodisc, but, considering the inflation-adjusted expense it would have been, I can’t say that I really blame him now.
Since I lived in a household that didn’t have cable yet, the videodisc format was pretty exciting for a movie-starved junior high kid such as myself, especially once two of our local merchants began renting discs in ’82 or ’83.
For a good two-and-a-half years, I spent a lot of my saved-up paper route, yardwork, and movie-extra earnings–
–on disc rentals in those two stores while they were offering new titles.
As you may have noticed from the two titles featured in my homemade collage here–
–home video producers weren’t at all timid when it came to putting gory and violent stills on the back covers of their videodiscs.
While I grew up in a pretty conservative small town in the Midwest, I rented both of these R-rated titles, and many more, from our small town’s TV & Appliance store, mostly during the time I was a Freshman in high school, for about two or three bucks a night, and never got hassled over it because of my age.
(Seen in the photo above, circa 1983, is my cousin, at four years of age, whom I’d placed in the photo, for a better sense of scale, with my rented He Knows You’re Alone videodisc.)
I remember finding it ironic that I could rent these R-rated movies locally on videodisc, without a parent standing next to me, yet if I had tried to get into a theater in Davenport, Iowa or Rockford, Illinois to see these same movies without adult supervision, I would have been turned away.
This was the first movie I watched on the RCA SelectaVision CED format in 1982…
…and this was one of the last, sometime in late 1985: