Monday, October 27, 2008

Monster Squad: The Long Road to DVD


As we get closer to Halloween Night many of us will be spending the coming nights revisiting our favorite monster movies. Any child of the 80's can tell you how frustrating it has been that one of our most cherished favorites took so long to make the leap to DVD.
I'm talking about "Monster Squad", a film I will be watching tonight as I'm sure many other fans have been doing this past month thanks to a great two disc set released by Lions Gate last year.

You may be asking yourself how come a cult film with such a big following took so long to finally make it onto DVD, especially when every month we are bombarded with DVD releases of every piece of crap horror or sci-fi film ever made. Thanks to a bit of research and a great article in this month's issue of Horror Hound magazine I can go ahead and share the answer with all you monster fans out there.

Back in 1986 two independent film production companies (Taft Entertainment, and Keith Barish Productions) took a risk on green lighting a script for a modest kid monster movie by writer Fred Dekker. These two companies had collaborated before on a string of films that were distributed theatrically by Tri-Star Pictures ("Running Man", "Light of Day", and "Ironweed"). Of these films only "Running Man" made any profit, and a modest one at best.
When "Monster Squad" got the greenlight to go into production Tri-Star once again stepped in to pick up the theatrical distribution rights, but Home Video rights were licensed by Taft Entertainment to Vestron Video. If Tri-Star had gotten all the rights to the film we would've seen a DVD fairly early on since Tri-Star went on to become Columbia-Tri Star Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures who releases films on DVD and Blu-ray by the truckloads every month.

Unfortunately Tri-Star had nothing to do with the film after its original theatrical run and it was up to Vestron to handle the home video distribution.
Their VHS released was priced for rental at 90 dollars a copy and they never re-released it priced to own. What they did do was license it out to Image Entertainment for Laserdisc release in the late 80s.

In 1991 Vestron Video filed for bankruptcy. An event that that forced "Monster Squad" to float around in movie limbo for 16 years. After Vestron's bankruptcy the rights to its film library were picked up by Live Entertainment whose rights to the Taft / Barish film's expired in 1997 before they could plan a home video release for the film.
At that point the rights to the film would've reverted to Taft Entertainment, the only problem was that company didn't exist anymore either.
Before folding the company had turned over all its assets to Spelling Entertainment, a company that had recently also aquired the Republic Films catalog, so now the film had another owner.
Spelling quickly consolidated all its new assets under the Republic Banner.

In 1999 during the beginning of the DVD era Spelling Entertainment was purchased by Viacom (owners at the time of Paramount Pictures), but instead on focusing on releasing Monster Squad on DVD they turned their attention to releasing more recent films such as "Thinner".
In 2005 a ray of hope appeared when fans began to notice an HD broadcast of "Monster Squad" with the Paramount logo at the beginning on the Monsters HD cable channel. Not seeing much value in the film other than in cable broadcasts Paramount / Viacom opted not to bother with a DVD release. Fortunately in late 2006 Lions Gate managed to negotiate a deal with Viacom to relicense some of the Republic Films they had acquired through the purchase of Spelling's assets. Finally "Monster Squad" found a home at a company that valued cult films and understood the potential for a successful DVD release.

Less than a year later we got treated to the 20th Anniversary 2 disc Special Edition of the film courtesy of Lions Gate. There you have it. How many times do we wonder how come our favorite cult flick from the past hasn't made it onto the newest home viewing format. The "Monster Squad" example will hopefully shed some light on this mystery and fortunately after 20 years this monster story did have a happy ending.

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