Along with Betamax and HD-DVD, LaserDiscs were the casualty of a video format war. They were more unwieldy and expensive than the VHS tapes they were meant to replace. At the same time, they were easier to damage and held less information than the DVDs that eventually superseded them. Recently, over at Screencrush, film critic Matt Singer compiled a list of LaserDiscs that are still, surprisingly, very valuable. But why?
For a format that never really caught on with the general public, LaserDiscs hung around for a while. The first film released on LaserDisc was Jaws in 1978, and the last LaserDisc player was manufactured in 2009, 31 years later.
As it declined as a format, the secondary market for LaserDiscs grew, and many titles can fetch hundreds. Singer’s Screencrush piece is a good introduction to the secondary market for the format. So, here are some notable titles that have recently gone for big bucks. Do you have them?
Star Wars: The Definitive Collection is a box set of the original trilogy that also came with a booklet of production notes and George Lucas: The Creative Impulse. Ironically, the reason this set usually sells for about $200 is that it contains the original theatrical releases before Lucas stopped controlling his impulse to alter them with revisionist story changes and new visual effects that were mostly panned by fans.
Song of the South is a 1946 Disney animated film that traffics in pretty awful racist stereotypes, and the studio has long acted as though they wished it would go away. It was never released on home video in the United States, where its subject matter is most fraught, but Disney did release it in other markets. A Japanese LaserDisc copy of the film recently sold for $210.
The Matrix is widely available on other formats, of course, but it was one of the last films released on LaserDisc when it came out in 1999. When you consider the popularity of the film and the franchise, which just started filming its fourth installment, it’s no surprise that a copy of the film recently sold for $250.
Let It Be — the film, not the album or song — came to theaters in 1970. It wasn’t until 1982 that it made it to home video in VHS, Betamax, and LaserDisc formats. That was the one and only home video release of the film, which has been widely bootlegged in the decades since, though a 50th anniversary Blu-Ray and DVD release is allegedly in the works for this year. But even if the film does finally make it to modern formats, there will always be an appetite for the LaserDisc — a near-mint edition of which recently sold for $295.
Many of the more collectible and expensive LaserDiscs are of bizarre films produced well outside of the mainstream. There’s not much of an appetite to transfer these films to newer formats — the potential audience is fairly limited — which makes LaserDisc copies scarce and worth a lot to the motivated fan. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is one such example, as a LaserDisc copy recently fetched $200 on eBay.