How consumers watch film and television has vastly changed over the last decade-plus. The advent of streaming platforms has taken over Hollywood. A more common occurrence is major studios choosing to debut films on various streaming services on the same day as their theatrical release. Even the sports world has slowly ventured into the streaming world with sports such as football, mixed martial arts and boxing broadcasting events on multiple streaming platforms.
2023 marked a change in the home video market. Electronics retailer Best Buy announced they would no longer offer physical media moving into 2024. Netflix currently sits on top of the streaming war with the most extensive subscriber base, and it ended its mailed DVD services this year. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix has seen a steady decline in its mailed services over the past decade, starting at over $1 billion in revenue in 2012 and going down to $146 million in 2022.
Best Buy and Netflix leaving the physical media market may seem like another blow to collectors of the medium. However, it's doubtful if most of the streaming giant's subscribers knew the mailing service was still available. Best Buy hasn't exactly been a major player in the physical media market for a few years. The retailer only has a four-percent share in the sales market compared to competitors like Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Target.
Also, numerous alternative companies sell directly to consumers, including companies such as Kino Lorber and The Criterion Collection, among a plethora of others.
While streaming has taken the reigns as the most used form of watching movies and television programs, physical media still has its place in today's landscape. Physical media 4K and Blu-ray discs will usually provide a higher quality picture and sound than what can be found with streaming. More importantly, only with a physical copy can you truly own and watch the film anytime.
"If you buy a 4K UHD, you buy a Blu-ray, it's on your shelf, it's yours," said famed director Christopher Nolan to IGN. "No company is going to break into your house and take it from you and repossess it. It's yours, and you own it. That's never really the case with any form of digital distribution."
Arguably, physical media's most significant advantage over streaming is the ability to hold a tangible product. And that product can be turned into art. Vinyl records and compact discs have seen a resurgence over the last decade for music lovers. For movie buffs, VHS has always held a unique and nostalgic place for collectors, especially for horror fans. Returning to a time when you could head to your local video store and rent or buy a film purely based on the cover is often missed.
Picking up on a need in the physical media market, Los Angeles native Kadi started Kadi Video in July 2021 as a way to provide horror fanatics and cinephiles, in general, an opportunity to own some of their favorite films on VHS. Kadi makes her own artwork and puts it on VHS cases and tapes. The films she has created VHS-based artwork on range from movies strictly on streaming services, such as Netflix's Fear Street trilogy, to recent horror classics like Doctor Sleep and Drag Me To Hell.
There are some movies available through Kadi Video that do play the actual film. Some films from directors Mike Flanagan and Mike P. Nelson have limited playable movies. However, due to copyright restrictions, many are VHS art pieces.
In an exclusive interview with Kadi, the owner and creator of Kadi Video, 1428 Elm, spoke with her about her venture into physical media. We go into her unique designs and art styles, along with some of the obstacles she has faced along her journey and the support she has received from the horror community, including directors.
This interview was slightly edited for clarity.
1428 Elm: One of the first things I wanted to ask you was, with Kadi Video, what exactly set you off on that adventure here first? Were you a collector yourself before you started making your own product?
Kadi: I was mostly a collector of vinyl records, so I would go to different places to get vinyl. I would check Craigslist and hit up different people for the ability to take a look at what their vinyl collection was like. I've always had a soft spot for VHS and film in general, so moving into trying to make things for VHS was a natural progression for me. I wanted to see what I could do to add to a space I saw growing with VHS, but I wanted to make my own designs and eventually grow into the style I have that mimics the '80s and '90s style art. That's how I got my start.
1428 Elm: It seems easier to capture the mood or the style of the 1980s, maybe because there are many examples of the period compared to the 1990s. Have you found that the case for movies you're doing from the '90s versus the '80s? Did you find it at all more difficult to come up with artwork for that period?
Kadi: It depends. In the '90s, there were still some really interesting art designs, especially for horror films, but not so much for dramas and comedies. Still, it's more the early 2000s I find to be more difficult when things became more simplistic and just sort of based photography style that probably until 2007 or 2006, they had that weird style that is popular, very simplistic. But I found the '80s to be a lot more fun than the '90s in some cases because there's more vibrancy in the imagery versus the '90s.
1428 Elm: So, speaking of horror movies, was it Netflix's Fear Streat series that was your breakout release?
Kadi: It was definitely Fear Street. That was the one. I decided to try new things with my art style and break away from some of the design styles I was playing around with before, and it got a lot more attention than I could have ever anticipated.
It was also my ability to finally play around with making box sets because I've always been interested in collectible boxes, even beyond physical media, for anything in general. I wanted to try my hand at making a box set, which, in addition to the art and the fact that it's the horror genre, was what gained that momentum for me. But it was definitely unexpected.
1428 Elm: One of the things that makes your work unique, and I'm just looking at the catalog, is that you offer movies that are only available for streaming and give them a physical medium. Is it much harder to get that process done when it's just a movie that's available for streaming when you have other movies that you may offer that are on Blu-Ray, 4K, or DVD?
Kadi: In some ways, I think that when it's streaming only, it generates a bit of a different audience. It's an audience that desires to have the film on Blu-ray, 4K, or DVD, but they're unable to have it on physical media, so it's not necessarily more complicated to come up with designs or anything. They're getting that physical media release that they wouldn't have been able to get otherwise.
1428 Elm: When you have a physical release, it's like the movie can live on. Making a movie is hard, let alone a good one. Movies are sometimes treated as being disposable, especially when they're only on streaming. So what you're doing gives movies almost like a second life or chance for them to live on.
Kadi: I want films to be appreciated as the art that they are. And when you have a film in physical media form, it gives rewatchability to the film.
1428 Elm: Looking at everything you have on the Kadi Video site, you offer much more than horror movies. If you're a fan of Quentin Tarantino, you even got The 14 Fists of McCluskey on there, which is crazy. You have Death Proof, Mad Max, John Wick, and Hunger Games. When I started collecting VHS, horror movies were the first ones I started collecting. What do you think it is about the horror genre that makes it stand out? What makes it seem like the horror community is more appreciative and receptive to physical media than others?
Kadi: Yeah, the horror genre, from what I've noticed, a lot of the actors and directors and everyone that works on horror films don't have any pretentious air about them. That is not to say that other directors do, but the horror genre generally seems to be a very welcoming community.
So, other directors are very welcoming to each other, and they help each other. And some of it comes from just the history of the horror genre in general. A lot of independent filmmakers get their start in horror, and I think all of that plays a big factor in the fact that the horror genre is more accepting of the physical media because they seem to be more accepting in general of a lot of things.
And I said this before, but it may have to do with the subject matter itself. You're dealing with so much pain, agony, and scary things that you let all of that out through the art that you'll become a happier person and, I think, the audience, too.
1428 Elm: So, when you spoke about directors, I heard many reached out to you, including Mike Flanagan. What kind of things did they contact you about regarding some of your artwork?
Kadi: So, many of the horror directors who have reached out to me have been very supportive and encouraging. They've reached out to be motivational and to help where they can. There are limitations on what they can do because, as directors, they only have so much power. A lot of people seem to think that directors have all of the power in the world, but the truth of the matter is that there are also studios that are involved, and the studios are not always as happy and encouraging.
Some of the smaller studios seem to be a little bit more excited about it. But yeah, when it comes to some of the bigger-name directors, you may have studios, contracts, and other people behind them who might not yet be ready for the wave of physical media.
1428 Elm: What's great about what you do is your control over your artwork, which movies you want to do, and whatnot. What are some of the obstacles that you've run into so far?
Kadi: The biggest obstacle has definitely been navigating the copyright waters. That's definitely tricky. When a studio reaches out, it's like, okay, I stopped selling anything that I'm selling. It is just artwork. When it comes to IP, even artwork and reinterpretations and things, it is not always welcomed. So that's the biggest obstacle. I have also been trying to navigate and work with smaller studios that are more open to VHS, but it's a rough and tough battle.
1428 Elm: I remember going to the mall and going to Suncoast video. Is that one of the reasons that you ventured to VHS? Was there a store you would go to in your area?
Kadi: Absolutely. So Blockbuster was a big thing for me, and Suncoast is huge. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to have my VHS shrink-wrapped and to look new because it made me think more of when I used to buy at Suncoast. Just of those brand new VHS, the way it felt to glide your hands around some of these boxsets and knowing what you would pick out had to be special because you would be watching this film again and again.
And especially with the box sets, knowing they were limited edition releases was just so beautiful. I've bought a Gone With the Wind Box set, which inspired a Twilight box set that I made. That just played a role in my nostalgia and the fact that I miss these so, so much.
1428 Elm: Did you have a boutique store at a flea market or a swap meet before putting stuff online?
Kadi: I actually started directly online. But I started collecting VHS by doing a mixture of ordering things on eBay and then going to thrift stores. I have some thrift stores that are nearby that I always check out and see what I can find. That's where I got my start with collecting the VHS and then started selling online immediately.
1428 Elm: Did you find you can do more artwork using the VHS format than the others?
Kadi: Yeah. One of the things I like to do is make use of the spine and see what I can do playing around with the art on the side. And so there's a lot more room to play with the artwork on a VHS. But also that the box has to be assembled as opposed to just a cover that's inserted into a plastic case.
1428 Elm: When you look back at watching movies with your family, are there any VHS tapes in particular that stood out to you that you always thought looked cool? A few you used as a template for some of the other artwork?
Kadi: When it comes to what I use as a template for a jumping-off point for work that I create, it usually depends on the film. But in terms of just films that talk to me that I don't necessarily base the artwork on, it has such a huge impact on me that it is where I get my inspiration from to do art, in general, is Hellraiser.
1428 Elm: Oh, really? Hellraiser!
Kadi: I was really scared of that poster as a kid. It created such an impact on my life that it plays a little bit with the artwork that I do.
1428 Elm: I have always felt that dramas, or maybe specifically romance, comedies, or romantic comedies, don't usually get unique physical releases or premium releases. You have a bunch of movies that aren't horror on your site. Are those some of the films you want to focus on in the future? Do you plan on making more artwork, more comedies, or more romance movies as well?
Kadi: I would love to do more comedy and romance, but I also know that the audience I have is more interested in horror, adventure films, and sci-fi films. So occasionally, there are movies I really, truly love and want to put out there on VHS, but I know they won't get the reception. It might be something that eventually I can do more of.
1428 Elm: Is there a series or a movie in particular that people are always asking you about? When are you going to make this series or movie?
Kadi: There are inquiries. Sometimes, people request re-release of films like Halloween or Scream, and it's like it can't happen. I also get a lot of requests for A24 films, which at this time is not a request that I can do, which makes me a little sad because A24 makes some fantastic films, and it would be a dream to be able to work with A24, but it's not going to happen.
1428 Elm: Are there any other ventures that you're going to be working on? What are some of the other things you're working on that people don't know about?
Kadi: So, there are things I've been testing; I can't really go into any details. But playing around, seeing if it still works, and then also seeking out manufacturers for certain things. I can't go into too many details other than that. And when it comes to projects that I'm working on that are VHS-related, there are things that might be coming up, and that's about all that I can say.