The Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) and its members are mourning the passing of George Atkinson, who is generally considered to have been the "inventor" of video rental. Atkinson died Thursday in Los Angeles.
"From George Atkinson's innovation, a tremendous industry has developed," said Bo Andersen, President of VSDA. There are now more than 24,000 video stores in the U.S. In 2004, there were 2.6 billion DVDs and VHS cassettes were rented, generating more than $8 billion in revenue.
In the Fall of 1977, George Atkinson bought one Betamax and one VHS copy of each of the first 50 movie titles that were then being sold to the public. Announcing the availability of the videos for rent in a one-column-inch ad in the Los Angeles Times in December 1977, Atkinson launched the first video rental store, Video Station, a 600-square foot storefront on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. In order to raise capital, Atkinson charged $50 for an "annual membership" and $100 for a "lifetime membership," which provided the opportunity to rent the videos for $10 a day. Atkinson was soon threatened with a lawsuit for renting the videos, but discovered that U.S. copyright law gave him the right to rent and resell videos he owned.