The case of the disappearing video -- Movie studios pull titles to create more demand

By Ty Burr
July 19, 1991 at 04:00 AM EDT

You could have bought a copy of Disney’s animated Robin Hood in 1984, and you can buy one now. But if you tried anytime from 1987 till last week, you probably came home empty-handed. Where was the movie? In a video netherworld the distributors call ”moratorium.”

Almost all the major labels practice this little-known shell game, cutting off the supply of titles to stores and keeping them unavailable for years to manipulate consumer demand. But Disney is the most avid practitioner, icing such titles as Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, even The Little Mermaid from stores after as little as a year (rental copies may still be available, but they’re scarce). How do you know when a movie is about to go on moratorium? You don’t — the cassette companies rarely announce it to the public. Maybe the video industry should amend its PR campaign slogan from ”Watch what you want, when you want it” to ”Watch what we say, when we want you to.”

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