Terminator 2 was the second ‘real’ VHS cassette that I owned, Total Recall being the first. I had VHS movies before that, but they were mostly grainy SLP recordings of movies played on the HBO Free Preview Weekends. These, though, were cellophane-wrapped sleeves with official artwork, like what you picked up to look at in Blockbuster.
In both cases I was shocked that my parents actually agreed to the purchase, but we were at Sam’s Club and the price was right. They were both around 15 to 20 dollars, crazy low for the early ’90s. This bonkers 1991 Terminator 2 promo video aimed at rental stores sheds some light on why I/we thought this was a good price, highlighting just how ludicrous the rental market was in the ’90s as well as the insane price gouging that was going on with the entire home video market.
Robert Patrick hosts this five-minute commercial, “on behalf of Arnold, Linda, (him)self, and the entire Terminator 2 cast and crew,” welcoming the rental store owner to the team. A disembodied narrator recounts the amazing domestic and international box office return on T2 and lays out the ambitious marketing plan for the home video release.
You can really sense the gold mine that these guys have on their hands, particularly emphasized when the narrator unveils a plan to use this ultra high value product to offload a less-desireable title, Drop Dead Fred. That’s right, you can buy a 15 pack that will include 12 copies of T2 and 3 copies of DDF1.
Buy the 20-pack and you get four more T2 copies and you only have to suck up ONE More copy of Drop Dead Fred.
There’s also an ambitious plan to push the previously viewed T2 copies, those nasty VHS tapes with cola-stained sleeves and worn out ribbons that still somehow cost 25 to 30 dollars in a bin at the checkout. The plan involves STICKERS to put on the posters to ask the employees for more information. There’s also a cheesy commercial that plays at the top of every T2 copy in which a family argues over a remote. The father rewinds a special effects scene so many times that his adult son complains, “c’mon, dad, I wanna see Arnold!”
That’s about it, except for the sting at the end. Each copy costs $99! It’s really the exclamation point on the sentence that was the state of home video in 1991 – the technology was still new enough and the novelty of ‘owning’ your favorite movies still fresh enough that the industry could charge a very high premium. Efforts like this were a dime a dozen – although, to be clear, T2 was a very high value product – and there was just a ton of money to be had for studios, for distributors, and for rental retailers. Here’s the promo:
A simpler time. Also a ridiculous one. It was fun, if you were privileged (or aspirational), and it had its moment. Nice to revisit, but nobody realistically would really want to go back.
Agree, for sure – there’s so much benignly bonkers stuff about the early ’90s, and the shift in media consumption and uptick in media outlets in so many directions made for some pretty interesting ideas… but I don’t really miss being in the ’90s.