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Vestron Video

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Vestron Video
Company typePrivate
IndustryHome video
Founded1981; 43 years ago (1981) (Original)
2016; 8 years ago (2016) (Revival)
FounderAustin Owen Furst Jr.
Defunct1993; 31 years ago (1993) (Original)
FateParent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, assets acquired by LIVE Entertainment
HeadquartersStamford, Connecticut
Key people
Austin Owen Furst Jr.
ParentVestron, Inc. (1981–1991)
LIVE Entertainment (1991–1993)
DivisionsVestron Pictures

Vestron Video was the main subsidiary of Vestron, Inc., a home video company based in Stamford, Connecticut, that was active from 1981 to 1993, and is considered to have been a pioneer in the home video market.

The name is now used for a collector-oriented home entertainment label of Lionsgate.[1][2]


Vestron Video logo, used from 1981 to 1986. The current Vestron Video logo used by Lionsgate is similar to this one.

Vestron was founded in 1981 by Austin Owen Furst Jr. (born 1943), an executive at HBO, who was hired to dismantle the assets of Time-Life Films. Furst bought the video rights of the film library, which also included several productions for HBO (then-owned by Time-Life) as well as films HBO had invested seed money in, for himself and decided to form a home entertainment company with these assets. Furst's daughter suggested the moniker "Vestron," a portmanteau combining the name of Roman goddess Vesta and "Tron", which means "instrument" in Greek.[3]

The company held on to its Time-Life Video library, and was also responsible for releases on videocassette and CED Videodisc (CED) of mostly B movies and films from the Cannon Films' library. The most notable titles Vestron released in its early days were Monster Squad and An American Werewolf in London. In later years, the company began to shift towards mainstream films, including films released through their Vestron Pictures subsidiary, most notably Dirty Dancing. Vestron was the first company to release National Geographic and PBS' Nova videos in the late 1980s, mostly distributed by Image Entertainment, and was the first to market with a pro wrestling video, Pro Wrestling Illustrated Presents Lords of the Ring. They also released a 3-volume series called How to Beat Home Video Games, which contains strategies for video games of the time.

They also handled exclusive US distribution, marketing and sales of VidAmerica releases beginning in 1983.[4] Starting in 1985, they handed these duties to their genre sub-label, Lightning Video.[5][6] In 1987, VidAmerica split away from Vestron and launched its own distribution business.[7]

Vestron went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1985 with what was, at the time, a large market cap initial public offering (IPO) of $440 million, which was oversubscribed. The company enjoyed success for several years, at one point exceeding 10% of the US video movie market. At its high point sales approximated $350 million annually, and the company sold video movies in over 30 countries either directly or through sub-licensing agreements. This was a rights business, built by people who saw the value in video (VCR) rights to films before the major studios did.[citation needed] Eventually they recognized the market potential and film products became increasingly harder for Vestron to acquire. Also, independent producers increased the price of what was available.

Individual licensing agreements[edit]

In the Australian market, Vestron Video International initially had a contract with leading firm Video Classics to handle video distribution of its titles.[8] It switched affiliation to Communications and Entertainment Limited in 1984, and begin affiliating with ex-Video Classics member Filmways Australasian Distributors (later Filmpac Holdings) in 1985, before shutting its Australian unit down.[9][10]

In 1983, Vestron signed an agreement to license several of the films from Sherwood Productions for U.S. and Canadian video distribution.[11] Also that year, Vestron signed a deal to pick up several feature films from Artists Releasing Corporation, namely Vigilante and The House on Sorority Row.[12] In 1984, Vestron Video and Empire Pictures entered into a five-title agreement in which Vestron would handle worldwide distribution of five of the motion pictures produced by Empire.[13]

On June 11, 1985, Vestron Video signed an agreement with New Century Entertainment and financer SLM Inc., in which SLM's titles would be distributed on video by Vestron and theatrically by MGM/UA Entertainment Co.[14] On February 11, 1986, Vestron Video and ABC Video Enterprises set up a joint venture ABC/Vestron, for the home video releases of the Capital Cities/ABC television archives. All home video releases from the pact were compilation releases, and not entire programs originally aired by the network.[15]

On June 18, 1986, the company signed an agreement with Zupnik Enterprises to release five titles on videocassette; the company's predecessor, Zupnik/Curtis Enterprises, once had an agreement with Thorn EMI/HBO Video to distribute films.[16] On June 25, 1986, the company also signed an agreement with film producer and distributor Hemdale Film Corporation, in which Vestron would obtain home video rights to the Hemdale film library, for the North American region, such as Platoon. This was an extension of the previous licensing agreement that saw the company to release films like Hoosiers and At Close Range.[17]

In 1986, Vestron was rumored to buy independent film distributor Producers Sales Organization, but the deal collapsed, and PSO was shut down outright, forced into bankruptcy,[18] and subsequently renamed Producers Distribution International, then Interaccess Film Distribution, which, on October 8, 1986, became a studio-controlled the foreign sales firm that was controlled by the studio, reflecting the company's commitment to provide an international network of distributors, with access of quality, independently produced product.[19]

The company would then drop its PDO tag, forcing the company to make several deals, and the predecessor Producers Sales Organization, would have output deals with Zupnik Enterprises, Taft-Barish Productions, and a picture-by-picture agreement with RKO Pictures. Films from these agreements would not all flow into Interaccess that easily; the staff decided that the rights to those films would revert to the film's producers, and the company would be free to renegotiate the output deals or producers in order to take their business elsewhere. The deal represents the first three titles delivered by PSO after the agreement was signed, such as The Princess Bride, and two RKO productions Hamburger Hill and Hot Pursuit, and a remake of the 1956 film And God Created Woman.[20]

On October 15, 1986, Vestron Video International signed independent deals with Italian video distributor Domovideo and Korean video distributor Oasis Video Productions. These deals covered 35 titles originating from the Vestron catalog, including upcoming theatrical features.[21]

In March 1987, Vestron Video and Granada Television, the UK ITV franchisee holder, signed an agreement to release titles from its back catalog in an exclusive licensing deal for the burgeoning UK sell-through market. This deal included serials The Jewel in the Crown and Brideshead Revisited, together with special compilations from Granada's own ITV franchisee programme Coronation Street. The company thus had the world's largest recorded video catalog of the time with a single license covering 26 titles plus 12 further titles.[22]

On June 3, 1987, the Vestron Video-Hemdale Film Corporation lawsuit was challenged by a rival home video distributor Nelson Entertainment. Nelson filed the countersuit because it also held video rights to the 12 Hemdale pictures under almost identical terms as the arrangement Vestron attempted to enforce, adding High Tide in that deal by extension.[23] In July 1987, Vestron Inc. exercised an option to purchase a Cincinnati-area video store chain called The Video Store, which consisted of 10 stores, with owner Jack Messer giving the company another 14 during the July–October period.[24] That year, in August 1987, Vestron promoted Michael Karaffa to sales vice president and Adam Platnick to business affairs vice president, while the company also saw more layoffs, including those of former executives, namely Raymond Bernstein and Gordon Bossin, who both had layoffs in May.[25]

Later years[edit]

On October 1, 1986, Vestron Video revamped their internal structure on non-theatricals, promoting the head of the Children's Video Library label, C.J. Kettler, to film acquisition vice president, and shifting the existing operations of Children's Video Library to supervisor Michael Wiese, who subsequently ran a new non-theatrical programming unit as vice president of the studio. Kettler would manage the Vestron team of buyers and manage contracts, and head the feature film acquisition effort.[26] On November 26, 1986, Vestron rejected a takeover bid from the magazine publisher National Lampoon, which the company tried to purchase earlier that year.[27]

The company started to make its own films (Dirty Dancing, Earth Girls Are Easy, Blue Steel), but when the market's preferences matured, and shifted from watching almost any film to just watching "A" titles, which was the majors' specialty, Vestron was already committed to about 20 "B" to low-"A" projects. In 1986, Vestron launched syndicated television distribution unit Vestron Television to syndicate Vestron films to local TV stations.[28]

In 1987, the television unit signed an outsourcing agreement with All American Television to handle syndication of the company's features.[29] That year, Vestron Television International was formed, managed by executives from Interaccess Film Distribution, and Gregory Cascante, president of Interaccess, was named president of Vestron Television International.[30]

In 1987, Vestron Inc. formed a new single unit, the Vestron International Group, with Jon Peisinger as president of the new division, encompassing Interaccess Film Distribution, Vestron Video International, Vestron Pictures International and Locus Video Group. The announcement came after Gregory Cascante has resigned as president of Interaccess Film Distribution, and the operation would have more centralizing Vestron offices in those regions.[31] In late November 1987, Vestron Video revamped their distribution network to get rid of 9 out of 23 distributors and enrolled the 14 in a new "Vestron Advantage" program designed to gave the distributors more incentives and a means to market to sell Vestron tapes more efficiently.[32]

The company had its first top-selling title in 1988 with the hit release of the home video version of the hit Vestron Pictures film Dirty Dancing, a top title retailing for the then-industry-standard price of $89.98, marking the company's first big film to handle sponsorship in excess of Vestron's home video standards.[33] In 1988, it attempted to enter the primetime television market with a television series version of Dirty Dancing for CBS, but the series was cancelled after one season.[34]

The company's financing fell through and it eventually filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. On January 11, 1991, it was bought out by Los Angeles-based LIVE Entertainment, a home video and music company, for $27.3 million. LIVE acquired Vestron's extensive (3,000 plus) film library; Vestron executive Kevin Kasha was hired by LIVE to relaunch the label and titles continued to be released under the Vestron name until 1993 under LIVE distribution. The International branches were split up and sold off after the bankruptcy during 1991, the UK branch in particular had been sold a year before to Welsh ITV franchise holder HTV, which renamed it to First Independent Films. Vestron also sold off its TV holdings, including 160 films, TV specials and series to the Paris-based Pandora Group in 1990 and decided to invest their money.[35]

Vestron's international divisions themselves were the second largest after Warner Home Video. Vestron had many direct theatrical, video and TV distribution offices around the world in major markets, and owned a video manufacturing plant in the Netherlands to supply European markets. Today, most of Vestron Video's holdings are owned by Lions Gate Entertainment, which acquired LIVE's forerunner company, Artisan Entertainment, in 2003.


Vestron, Inc.'s subsidiaries included:

  • Vestron Video (1981–1993)
  • Vestron Pictures (1986–1993)
  • Vestron Pictures International (1986–1987)
  • Vestron Music Video (1980s)
  • Vestron International Group (1986–1991): Overseas distribution unit, formerly entitled Interaccess Film Distribution and Producers Distribution Organization. Many of its staff were hired from Producers Sales Organization after its bankruptcy.[36][37][38][39]
    • Vestron Pictures Japan (1987–1990); later ASCII Vestron, Ascii Film and Ascii Visual Entertainment; Japanese subsidiary; now Enterbrain.
  • Vestron Television (1986–1990): Former syndicated television unit, whose most notable production was a television series based on Dirty Dancing.
  • Vestron Video International (1982–1991)
  • Children's Video Library (1983–1987): Children's/family video sub-label.
  • Lightning Video (1985–1990): genre sub-label.
  • Lightning Pictures (1987–1989)
  • Lightning Video International (1985–1990)

Vestron Video Collector's Series[edit]

On August 1, 2016, Lionsgate Home Entertainment announced its revival of the Vestron Video brand as a Blu-ray and DVD reissue label for Vestron and other Lionsgate-owned horror films, similar to boutique labels like Scream Factory and Blue Underground.[40] This line, dubbed the Vestron Video Collector's Series, is branded with an updated version of the first Vestron Video logo from 1982 to 1986 and began with Blu-ray releases of the cult films Chopping Mall (an outside theatrical release) and Blood Diner (released by Lightning Pictures) on September 27, 2016.[41][42][43]


# Title Home Video Release Theatrical Release Original Distributor Format(s) Notes
01 Chopping Mall September 27, 2016 March 21, 1986 Concorde Pictures Blu-ray
02 Blood Diner July 10, 1987 Lightning Pictures Blu-ray
03 Waxwork October 18, 2016 June 17, 1988 Vestron Pictures Blu-ray Double Feature
Waxwork II: Lost in Time June 16, 1992 Electric Pictures
04 Return of the Living Dead 3 November 22, 2016 October 29, 1993 Trimark Pictures Blu-ray
05 C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. September 27, 1989 Vestron Pictures Blu-ray
06 The Lair of the White Worm January 31, 2017 September 14, 1988 Blu-ray
07 Parents January 27, 1989 Blu-ray
08 The Gate February 28, 2017 May 15, 1987 New Century Vista Film Company
Vista Organization
09 Wishmaster March 28, 2017 September 19, 1997 LIVE Entertainment Blu-ray 4-Film Set
Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies August 17, 1999 Artisan Entertainment
Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell October 23, 2001
Wishmaster: The Prophecy Fulfilled October 22, 2002
10 The Unholy June 27, 2017 April 22, 1988 Vestron Pictures Blu-ray
11 Warlock July 25, 2017 January 11, 1991 Trimark Pictures
New World Pictures
Blu-ray 3-Film Set
Warlock: The Armageddon September 24, 1993 Trimark Pictures
Tapestry Films
Warlock III: The End of Innocence October 12, 1999 Trimark Pictures
12 Slaughter High October 31, 2017 November 14, 1986 Vestron Pictures Blu-ray
13 Gothic January 30, 2018 April 10, 1987 Blu-ray
14 Class of 1999 May 11, 1990 Lightning Pictures Blu-ray
15 Beyond Re-Animator July 24, 2018 April 4, 2003 Lions Gate Entertainment Blu-ray
16 Dagon October 31, 2001 Blu-ray
17 Maximum Overdrive October 23, 2018 July 25, 1986 De Laurentiis Entertainment Group Blu-ray
18 Shivers September 15, 2020 October 10, 1975 Cinepix Blu-ray
19 Little Monsters August 25, 1989 Vestron Pictures Blu-ray
20 The Wraith July 20, 2021 November 21, 1986 New Century Vista Film Company Blu-ray
21 Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat August 17, 2021 October 23, 1991 Vestron Pictures Blu-ray
22 Dementia 13 September 21, 2021 September 25, 1963 American International Pictures Blu-ray
23 Steel Dawn October 26, 2021 November 6, 1987 Vestron Pictures Blu-ray
24 Candyman: Day of the Dead January 18, 2022 July 9, 1999 Artisan Entertainment Blu-ray
25 Dream a Little Dream March 15, 2022 March 3, 1989 Vestron Pictures Blu-ray
26 Extreme Prejudice May 17, 2022 April 24, 1987 Carolco Pictures Blu-ray
27 Earth Girls Are Easy November 8, 2022 May 12, 1989 Vestron Pictures Blu-ray
28 Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! December 13, 2022 November 17, 1989 International Video Entertainment Blu-ray 3-Film Set
Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation November 21, 1990 LIVE Entertainment
Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker November 7, 1991
29 The Dentist January 24, 2023 October 18, 1996 Trimark Pictures Blu-ray Double Feature
The Dentist 2 December 18, 1998
30 My Best Friend Is a Vampire July 25, 2023 May 6, 1988 Kings Road Entertainment Blu-ray
31 Blue Steel November 14, 2023 March 16, 1990 Lightning Pictures Blu-ray


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