30th Anniversary: Ghostbusters Movie Media
Note: Originally appeared at my personal site, iRich.
2014 marks the 30th Anniversary of the movie that helped shape my life, Ghostbusters. It seemed fitting that one of the first “30th Anniversary” posts (something I’m trying) be about the formats of how I’ve watched the films outside a theater after 1984 and those memories.
At some point I wanted to show a picture like above. I didn’t have a time frame of when I would until ghosthead and friend Matthew posted a “Spengs approved” (that could be a thing) Ghostbusters synopsis from a newspaper clipping. Not only did I like how it was written, it existed because Ghostbusters was premiering most likely for the first time on local television, ABC 7 (out of New York City) on September 24, 1987. I had no memory of the original air date, I remember the night. I didn’t know it when I was 9, the month and date would become very personal and connected. It’s a reason iRichard Roy exists. If it wasn’t for the date, maybe I would have waited to show off common items we all have. It motivated me.
In September 1987 ABC was a year into airing The Real Ghostbusters. It only made sense they were the network to show the TV edit. Around that time my parents had bought our first VCR. This was a big deal, unlike cable which we always seemed to have. I’m sure more weeknights then not if I wanted to watch TV, (before actual bedtime) I probably had to watch what my parents were. In a world before video recorders and controlling live TV, paper guides and programming the “set time” is all that was needed to record the mostly Reagan years.
We didn’t have a VCR a year earlier, I wasn’t in the habit of recording just about any cartoon or anything really which was made to sell toys. I vividly remember walking home from the bus stop, (it was a short walk) getting a snack I can’t eat without consequences in my 30s and watching The Real Ghostbusters. Five days a week, (this isn’t about Prince Adam) The Real Ghostbusters was also syndicated on FOX.
My parents and close neighbors had repeatedly rented Ghostbusters before 1987. Probably because of the high cost of VHS movies, we didn’t own a copy. When it was time to watch Ghostbusters on network television in 1987 during network family themed movie night I had to record it. I still remember setting the Panasonic VCR, programming it, watching Ghostbusters, remote close by so I could record it without commercials. I was an editor without realizing people go to school for this stuff.
Only thing was somehow I didn’t know when the commercials were about to start or end, press pause instead of stop. If you remember watching recordings on a blank tape where you stopped it, the VCR would track and maybe depending on your video/channel input you’d temporarily see a blue screen. Not having a perfect recording probably hurt a little, it didn’t take away from the fact that I owned Ghostbusters and enjoyed it, TV edits and all.
Their was about a two year window where I suppose if I didn’t ask for a Nintendo Entertainment System + games they could have bought me the classic black with “no ghost” logo VHS. I have no memory of owning that until I was like 21. Maybe we shouldn’t have rented it as much as we did.
On January 29, 1989 ABC aired Ghostbusters once again. I probably should have recorded it, by then I was a professional with the technologies I had access to. I don’t remember if I originally watched that broadcast or was even home that night. I do remember a time I was hanging out with one of my very young cousins who loved the Ghostbusters franchise because of me. We were watching his January ’89 recording. It might not have been until we were older. I wonder if he still has that tape.
1990 (1 Year Later)
After Ghostbusters II had been in theaters it was premiering through In Demand/Pay-Per-View (that is hyphenated right?) around Thanksgiving. Whether it worked out perfectly or it was total coincidence dinner was at our place. My parents allowed me to order Ghostbusters II and watch it in the living room while eating. I had and probably still have a yellow Kodak blank tape with the original recording on it. Of course while getting the tapes somewhat out of storage I couldn’t find it. Also of note is a recording of Earnest Saves Christmas which I recorded on the same tape.
The early 1990s were a “dark time” for me with Ghostbusters. I’m sure the number of times I watched just the original had slowed down considerably. I don’t think I got back into the films and the franchise until 1996. It may have occurred in part because of a trip to the mostly defunct Suncoast Video. Without any reference to technical research DVDs may have been in their infancies or being reversed engineered at a top secret military base. Once I owned a car by September 1996 I would go to our closest mall often. Freedom and all that, yeah. On this particular trip I came across an edition of Ghostbusters II I hadn’t seen before.
“Clamshell” VHS cases weren’t anything new and had been around since before walls that divided a city were taken down. I feel like Disney used the clamshell cases with all their feature film releases. I was so use to standard slip cases for the Ghostbusters movies, this was just different enough that I recognized a certain value to it. It was also a chance for me to own my first licensed and official copy of a Ghostbusters film. Which felt right.
I believe I was aware of Columbia/Tri-Star releasing or re-issuing family editions (even if they weren’t out of print) of popular movies. It was barely an anniversary year for Ghostbusters II, here it was, a shiny new edition of Ghostbusters II. I watched this version more then my In Demand copy, for at least another 5 years. Looks like the last time I watched it, I didn’t rewind it. Do I owe a fee?
As the 15th Anniversary of Ghostbusters was approaching Sony/Columbia Pictures was gearing up to do two things, release new copies of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II on VHS in a wide screen format. This was partially huge for its time as most editions of the films were pan and scan. Or full screen. With Ghostbusters you definitely were missing content and Egon. They were also putting both films on DVD for the first time. This was a big deal for the time as Ghostbusters had been planned for a DVD release, I think it had been pushed back. For the 15th anniversary not only would ghostheads have Ghostbusters on DVD, a DVD with features that wasn’t just some filmography and a preview. Remember when early DVDs were like that?
Prior to my excitement that June I had taken a trip long before “Do AC” to “America’s Playground,” Atlantic City for vacation. While shopping at the old Ocean One Mall I found the surely out of print Ghostbusters/Ghostbusters II gift set. It came in a black box, featured the logos, and either classic movie rested easily in their classic slip case boxes. I had to have it and bought it. As I wrote about in an Ectocontainment blog I did something very dumb, loaned the box set out to a fan I didn’t really know and never got it back. Only reason I would buy at least this version of Ghostbusters in 2014 would be as a collectible.
15th Anniversary (1999)
My family hadn’t adapted to the becoming standard DVD format yet. We didn’t have enough of a reason to own a DVD player. This is Ghostbusters, widescreen VHS and on DVD for the first time ever! Ghostheads had waited long enough for a DVD version, with mostly good (for its time) features.
In 1999 DVD players cost $$. Even when you’re working in a regional movie theater chain you weren’t buying a SONY DVD player with one check. You could buy the widescreen version of Ghostbusters, look at that, WIDESCREEN. That was the selling point. And the artwork. Someone had fun with Photoshop. I don’t remember the scene where Dana as Zuul laid across ECTO-1 like that, driving Peter mad enough to stand on top of the roof while Ray and Winston stare at him in further disbelief. What’s with the Ghostbusters “no ghost” logo sign? Did they open up a convenience store?
I also had enough money to buy of course the Ghostbusters Collectors Edition on DVD. As I already had two copies of Ghostbusters II on VHS and was about to buy that on DVD too, I opted not to buy the new Ghostbusters II on VHS again. Suncoast made plenty of money off me in buying Ghostbusters from there store during the 1990s.
In 1999 seeing a DVD with multiple “no ghost” logos on it was great. It almost felt natural that the packaging and artwork had evolved from classic black with Ghostbusters logos. For the first time ever, Ghostbusters had a menu and was in a way interactive. Now I wish I had screen capped it. To celebrate the 15th anniversary, Sony/Columbia had a contest (this was all huge for its time) where a fan or fans could win production artwork (may have been original, I don’t remember) of ghosts that were or weren’t in the film. I probably entered, I didn’t win. I think the winner or one of the winners eventually sold the artwork to another ghosthead. As a consolation prize one of the features on the DVD features production artwork of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
For some unknown reason a decision was made to barely care about Ghostbusters II on DVD. Just about everything about it on DVD tells fans this exists because the studio wanted it on DVD along side its new VHS version and the better 15th Anniversary Ghostbusters Collectors Edition. It isn’t a secret Ghostbusters II has a few memorable deleted scenes, most that were actually filmed and some swear they saw in theaters. I think ghostheads remember these scenes because they may have been featured in collectible trading cards. No one that would know is going to divulge the information to me.
Let’s take a look at the covers. The front background seems to be mostly the same as the Ghostbusters DVD cover. It was changed “just enough” to fit with the second movie’s themes. “Be ready to believe us” was never a tag line (as far as I know) for the sequel. The Ghostbusters themselves come from the Ghostbusters theatrical poster. The “no ghost” patches were changed to the Ghostbusters II versions. Why didn’t they use all 4 actors from the Ghostbusters II theatrical poster? Why do they hate on Winston?😦
At first glance the back cover may seem to fit perfectly with the end of Ghostbusters II. The majority of artwork comes from a completely different movie. Their was a time during the 20th Century I knew what movie it is, time and a quick search do not reveal this violent scene. Why would the cops need some kind of shot guns? If you can’t defeat ghosts this way, the police certainly aren’t going to stop one Ms. Lady Liberty. “She’s French you know.” – Peter
The Ghostbusters II DVD disc featured ZERO artwork and might have featured both the wide screen and pan and scan versions of the film. Although the movie could be watched in multiple languages, the menu was a pale comparison to Ghostbusters Collectors Edition. If I had taken a screen cap I’d be embarrassed. Thanks to how I flipped the insert you can see the artwork most fans didn’t win. If fans owned Making Of Ghostbusters (PDF file) by Don Shay, this artwork and a lot more were included in the book.
Until I had a Sony DVD player in 2000, I would play the Collectors Edition on one of the Power Mac G4s the Mac lab at my college had. During the 20th anniversary I replaced that aging DVD player with a newer Sony DVD player we occasionally use with an older TV.
August 3, 2005
Not to any fan’s surprise, a year after Ghostbusters 20th anniversary (well Ghostbusters was 21) and a year after the 15th anniversary of Ghostbusters II had passed like a forgotten step child Sony released as they had previously announced a Ghostbusters/Ghostbusters II DVD gift set. It included new “ectoplasm” packaging, if I remember actual artwork on the discs, new transfers of the movies, included a “in character” making of book for at least Ghostbusters. The real reason to get this (if you didn’t have the ’99 DVD) were the two movie themed episodes from The Real Ghostbusters. I remember as a personal choice knowing they should have used Take Two in addition to Citizen Ghost and Partners In Slime.
August 5, 2005
I use to own this then new fancy DVD set. I traded it to FYE (who eventually owned Suncoast) years later after most likely getting it from Best Buy. Coincidentally the week this was released I had to go to a hospital for past related health “issues.” And if that wasn’t bad enough, stay 5 days. It isn’t that I wouldn’t talk about that on my site, it’s unrelated for a lot of this post. During my stay, I had my then year old iBook G4 and the gift set with me. I wasn’t far into this version of Ghostbusters when family came to visit. I probably eventually watched at least the 2005 version of the movie. Because of the memories, my experiences, and a big issue with Ghostbusters I rarely bothered with the set.
I don’t know about this version of Ghostbusters II, the original new transfer suffered from someone turning up the contrast and brightness levels. If any ghosthead or someone who is really into movies cares about such things, this has been documented. It wasn’t the Ghostbusters I had been use to. It could be hard at times to watch it. If the movies didn’t have special effects, it could have been a little different.
Early 21st Century
From my decision not to watch the Ectoplasmic gift set or the re-released individual versions after 2005, when I wanted to watch Ghostbusters I’d continue watching my Collectors Edition or catch Ghostbusters on cable, then later satellite around Halloween. Yeah.
2006 (While we were still waiting for Ghostbusters III)
As most of you probably know I’ve been apart of a Ghostbusters franchise (group) most of my adulthood. During 2006 while I was still dealing with 2005’s health issues I was “second in command” (I think) as part of Ghostbusters-NJ. Six years later we relaunched as Ghostbusters NJ. We had experience from our big “case file” in 2004 with acting, through mostly writing and pictures. The time had come for us to make a Ghostbusters fan film.
As hard as this is for me to admit, (hope the tape was taped over) I had made 1 low low budget movie when I was 18 to help out a then young friend in California. I’ve never had any aspirations to be in front of a camera.
I was in to be apart of something that was an extension of something we loved. For me, I was only a year out from surviving what I went through. Although I was better then I was, to get ready for a fan movie that was going to be shot as professionally as possible, travel, and actually be in the film was a lot for and on me. No way I wasn’t going to be part of New Jersey’s greatest Ghostbusters fan film, Leeds Curse.
On a crisp, later windy Autumn day I travelled to another region of Jersey to shoot an entire fan film in one day. Unfortunately audio issues caused rewrites and reshoots. Most likely because of my health and geographic location I was written out. The reveal is classic, in a way I close out the movie. I even made the back cover as part of the famous kitchen scene! If someone believed in a second text line, part of my full name could have fit as well.😉
You could forgive us being a not for profit fan production that an 11 minute fan film doesn’t have artwork or an insert. I always thought it would have been great to release some kind of special edition (even if it was just on-line) with the video for the original along with commentary. I don’t imagine many DVDs were made, besides having meaning, its a personal collectible.
At a winter Chiller we were even able to talk to Ernie Hudson about it on a second meeting and present him with a copy. We’d like to believe he relaxed in his hotel room watching a NJ fan film in New Jersey.
If you’ve never seen Leeds Curse and want to know I get chills when I tell my colleagues I’ll check the “paranormal frequencies” the entire film can be viewed below thanks to Ghostbusters News.
25th Anniversary (2009)
Five years ago during Ghostbusters 25th anniversary, in my opinion for the most part Sony was treating one of its cash cows (is that a real expression, I grew up in suburbia) like it was turning 21. They restored THE ECTO-1, made new merchandise which included a video game with not only the actors likenesses, their voices too! 6″ and 12″ figures that looked like Harold Ramis, etc. I believe Sony even updated ghostbusters.com to coincide with the promotion and marketing of Ghostbusters on Blu-ray.
Similar to when I bought the 15th Anniversary DVD, I didn’t even own a Blu-ray player yet. We had barely upgraded one of our aging TVs (from 1997) that was going on us. It was to no one’s surprise if you knew me I bought this Blu-ray anyway with no way to play it at home. I probably thought we’d have a player within months. That became less clear when personal events lead to us moving out of my childhood apartment to buy a house by Thanksgiving. I wasn’t concerned about having a Blu-ray player that year. This one Sony model I liked and had research had been on sale. With a new house, basically a new hi def television, new a lot of things, it was decided to get the player. It became the “big” Christmas present.
It should be illegal to alter the iconic Ghostbusters “no ghost” logo. Which is so recognized around the world, its in Top 5 lists with things you can drink/eat, and places you can really visit. A drink in a red can, places with golden arches, and a castle taken care of by a magical creature that likes to tinker (and meddle) with things. Oh, where was I? Someone at Sony or associated with them actually approved altering the hands for marketing purposes. That way their was no mistaken the merchandise was celebrating 25 years of feeling good. I know I’m more of a traditionalist, as someone who works with computer graphics, somebody there could have come up with something better. It wasn’t like the graphic was a one off.
Beyond the dust slip cover is my Blu-ray. I scanned the covers and the light from the scanner went through the opaque blue tops and sides. I kinda like it though, its like blue ice. Which I wish I could invent and could use for a future, perhaps non disc format.
I’m glad the disc itself has artwork on it. I probably would have used the “no ghost” logo instead of “zooming” in and having to crop just about everything. Writing Ghostbusters on it almost feels like it was an after thought. Its personal preference based on my creativity and experience.
The 25th anniversary edition featured most of the special features from the 1999 Collectors Edition. New features included a picture in picture (Slimer mode) with a pop up trivia track, restoring Ecto-1 with special guest Dan Aykroyd, an Ecto-1 photo gallery, making of Ghostbusters: The Video Game, and additional features if you had/have a Sony Playstation 3.
At the time I would have liked Sony to have additional features such as new commentary with at least the “Ghostbusters.” I wouldn’t have complained if others were involved too. Where was Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters music video? Even if somewhat impossible without someone footing the bill (where do these expressions come from?) a documentary about the ghostheads. Most which seem to be involved in “franchises.” In another post, I could talk about what I’d like to see added for a 30th Anniversary edition, if we get one at all.
The high def picture is a lot better then the 2005 ectoplasm gift set. It isn’t perfect. Supposedly Sony got it “right” last year with a “4k” version. I wouldn’t know as I don’t currently own that version and even if I did I don’t have an “ultra 4k” television.
When I was collecting a lot of Ghostbusters memorabilia I came across an eBay auction for the LaserVideoDisc version of Ghostbusters. Which was probably originally sold in 1989. As an older kid and into my teenage years I was aware of laser discs even though I didn’t know the history of the technology. Like any new technology prices for players and discs were high. My parents wouldn’t have made the primitive leap of analog tape to then present day digital movies encoded for lasers. Sounds scary when I put it that way. In the small circles of people I knew and by extension my large Italian family I didn’t know anybody who had a laser disc player let alone a laser disc.
I’m not one who would put money on predicting technology trends. Even when I’ve been right. In the mid 1990s I knew DVD would become the standard format over Video CDs, DivX, (remember those?) and the aging Laserdisc. It may have been around Ghostbusters 15th anniversary, (give or take months) I remember on trips to my then local mall seeing Suncoast Video basically blowing out every laserdisc and some players. On that day I don’t know if I found Ghostbusters. Even if I did, I’m sure I didn’t see value in it, assuming the price was affordable for clearance discs that communicate with lasers.
When I came across the Ghostbusters laserdisc I felt differently about it as a collectible, remembering those Suncoast days along with Back To The Future II. I believe I bought or won it for under $10 USD. The laserdisc packaging isn’t mint. Their’s some writing (I think about the length of the movie on the disc) on the back and inside the sleeve. It sorta gives the technology character.
The actual laserdisc is mint and seemed well cared before I took ownership. It was (and normally is) inside a protective plastic sleeve. If the disc was ever played it might have been only in high end players. The laser disc (like early DVDs) is playable on both sides. I’m not that familiar with how much can fit on a disc or if say “side 2” also contains additional features.
My laserdisc seems standard and isn’t from the “Criterion Collection” which for the time features 1 deleted scene and two split screens for special effects comparisons. I’d like to think my disc at least contains the “The Stairway” university scene. Even if it doesn’t, in my world it can.
Other Formats I Had Forgotten About Or Hadn’t Heard Of Until I Was Old(er)
During the 80s the analog wars had Sony battling JVC to see what tape format would reign supreme. Sony had a closed format known as Betamax. Naturally Sony who in a bit of irony would eventually buy Columbia and Tri-Star released Ghostbusters on Betamax. Competing electronics company JVC had developed the VHS format. Their technology was “open format” and licensed to other companies. This helped develop a VCR/VHS market, lowering the price of VCRs and tapes. Their isn’t any truth that Ghostbusters release on VHS in 1985 ended the analog wars.
Before the laserdisc became what it was in the late 80s, RCA had invented a Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED) which was some kind of grooved laserdisc. The format was prone to failure, before the end was near Ghostbusters was released as a CED Videodisc in October 1985.
During the mid 2000s Sony’s earlier version of its Playstation Portable or PSP not only played games, but movies too. Sony’s closed format (which isn’t always a bad thing, remember Apple in the mid ’90s?) was called a Universal Media Disc. UMDs are mini discs with DVD quality. In 2005 Sony released Ghostbusters in the same ectoplasm packaging as its big brother. Their was a time I wanted a PSP, even when I didn’t, I had an opportunity to buy the Ghostbusters UMD and never did. It seems like that version of PSP was around long enough where it might have made sense to own the UMD. Naturally gaming and movie tech will evolve and change the way we’re entertained.
- The creators, writers, actors, and everyone who worked on both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II.
- My parents, 1980s neighbors, and family.
- Dollar Video (I still might have the orange membership card.)
- Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Woz, Apple
- 1980s network TV
- 1980s TV “guides”
- Al Gore (For inventing the internet.)
- 1990s A.O.L
Other ghostheads and their websites, specifically for this post: