DVDs muscle in over VHS

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It may not be much longer until DVDs do to VHS videos what compact discs did to the audio cassette.

DVDs and DVD players are leading the demand in entertainment technology among American consumers.

DVDs or digital video discs, which look like CDs but can carry eight hours of high-detailed video, will eventually muscle over its clumsier cousin, predict a range of expert and consumer sources.

The VHS tape, an analog videotape format, has been a standard viewing requirement in many households since the 1980s.

But according to brief observations of movie rental habits of some Craig residents, the DVD seems here to stay. Over the course of about an hour, a mix of movie renters from young to old, overwhelming chose the DVD format over VHS Friday night at the Movie Gallery video store near the Centennial Mall.

Customers choosing DVDs may be the result of two factors, said David Trout, Movie Gallery manager.

People like the better quality pictures and "extras" DVDs have to offer, he said. But movie rental stores are also offering less of a selection of VHS rentals.

"We're gradually changing over to DVD, eventually everyone will have to watch DVDs," Trout said. "Actually I think it's kind of a scam."

DVD movies are arranged in the most prominent locations at store. They line both sides of aisles that customers must filter through to enter the heart of the store.

Recently, Movie Gallery began receiving some movies only in the DVD format. New release "Lost in Translation," starring actor Bill Murray, is one such example, Trout said.

As for affordability, DVD and VHS rentals are almost comparable in price at local stores.

New release DVDs and VHS are $3.49 for either format at Movie Gallery. However, their prices for older or non-new release DVDs are $3.49 while VHS are a $.99 rental.

Prices at Craig's City Market -- the only other movie rental location in town -- displayed more uniformity.

New releases for VHS and DVD rentals run $2.99. But non-new release DVDs run $.99, the same price to rent the VHS counterpart.

Either video format is fine by Movie Gallery customer Jessie Pennigton.

But price, availability and quality are a concern for the movie-lover who owns both a VCR and a DVD player.

"I like the outtakes and the not having to rewind DVDs," she said.

But Pennigton said she regularly chooses VHS to watch dated movies that aren't often converted to the DVD format.

The switch to watching DVD movies may never happen with the older generation, as witnessed by Craig City Market video clerk Lucas Wiser.

Local senior citizens are the only age bracket largely opting out of renting DVDs over VHS, he said.

"The seniors tend to stick with tapes," Wiser said.

The generation gap over newer technology is espoused in an online study by Barna Research Group, an independent marketing research group that studies cultural trends.

Though the report states the sale of DVD players have been the most rapidly selling technology in the country since 2000, the older generation is largely left out of that loop.

Their research suggests 69 percent of Americans owned a DVD player, satellite or home theater technology a few years ago.

Yet those aged 19-37 were more than 70 percent more likely to own a DVD player compared to those aged 57 or older.

Pennigton noted her parent's reluctance to embrace the latest technology when she gave them a DVD player for Christmas.

"It didn't fit with their older TV," she said.

Pennigton's parents didn't want to shell out for an updated television to make use of a DVD player.

"I think it's more of an our generation thing," said the 20-something.

Dropping prices of DVDs and DVD players may play a role in their increasing popularity.

According to online Wal-Mart listings, DVD players ranged from $80 up to about $200 for portable versions. Those prices represent a fraction of what DVD players sold for a few years ago.

Many VCRs ranged from about $40 to less than $100 at the store.

Still DVDs almost always out-price VHS tapes, but that gap is closing.

At City Market, a bargain bin of DVDs were selling for $4 each while VHS tapes were $2.50 each. New release DVDs were advertised for as much at $17.95. But it was difficult to find a new VHS tape anywhere near the $20 range, unless it was an extremely popular flick.

A reasonable price is one reason why Pennigton still chooses to buy some box sets on VHS.

"It's a little bit cheaper that way," she said.

Wiser estimated that City Market orders eight of every 10 new videos on DVD format.

The teenager watches DVDs rather than VHS because of its flexibility of options.

DVDs often have wide-screen capabilities, subtitles in a selection of language, options for different camera angles and a host of extras.

"Yeah, I have a video player," Wiser said and paused. "Somewhere."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or at ahatten@craigdailypress.com.






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