Which Pizza-Sized Movie Format Failed to Win Over Consumers?
Introduced to North American audiences in 1978, LaserDisc was an enormous optical disc (11.8″ across, the size of a modest pizza) that had quite a few technological advantages over the current movie formats VHS and BetaMax. The video quality was significantly better than the two cassette-based alternatives and the disc could include (and usually did include) multiple surround sound tracks in both analog and digital encoding among other additional features like director’s cuts, commentary, and extras not found on competing formats.
That said, however, the disadvantages of the LaserDisc system (especially for North American and European consumers) outweighed the benefits. The discs were huge (nearly a foot across), they weighed almost a pound each, movie releases were few and far between on the format, and the low adoption rate did little to encourage studios to release more films (by 1998 the North American saturation rate was a mere 2%). Although the player and disc prices were kept artificially low in Japan to encourage adoption the saturation rate there never broke 10%. The format and player production was eventually retired and by 2001 world wide production of both discs and players had completely halted. The format retains a small but loyal following thanks to movies released only on the format and never again (mostly controversial movies in North America like Disney’s Song of the South and obscure Anime films in Asian markets).