This is a post that will reach a more limited audience than usual, since a lot of my readers are from other side of the Atlantic, but one which would mean more to those who have lived in Manchester, U.K. in late 1990’s. But Does anybody actually remember Laser 2000?
Laser 2000 was a Laserdisc, AV equipment and early DVD supplier in the late 90’s and was located at the High Street end of Manchester’s Arndale Centre, not far from where Timpsons and Gabbot’s Farm are located now. The shop only lasted a few years and specialised in Region 1 DVD’s and at the time, NTSC Laserdiscs, or U.S. copies for those who don’t know intricacies of DVD or Laserdisc encoding .
The staff was friendly and would always have the latest blockbusters playing on their projector in the back room, where they held a decent stock of AV equipment, including the Pioneer DVL-909 DVD/Laserdisc combi in champagne no less (pictured right), dating it somewhat by today’s standards. And a projector was pipe dream for normal folk back then as well. I grew up with Cine projectors, Super 8 as well as 16mm but even I wouldn’t be able to get a video projector until 2003!
I would go there every Friday after work and before I would come out with around three Laserdiscs, which would set me back around £80 or £90, or my week’s disposable income, I would usually be treated to a yet another scene from that years summer hits, often the now derided Godzilla (1998). It was in that room that a member of their team had sold me Blade (1998), a film that I wasn’t interested in at the time. Personal service though I suspect that they may have been on commission.
I was only on £3.00 and hour and living at home back then!
This is one of those instances where there is nothing on the web about this, not even a Wikipedia entry. If I remember correctly, Laser 2000, named for upcoming new millennium, was part of a project, possibly [National] Lottery funded but without any clarification, I’m not too sure about this. I was only 19/20 years old at the time.
This piece is as much about jogging people’s memories and hopefully learning something new out about what happened to this shop etc… as it is about reminding people that they existed in the first place. It was an important shop for me at the time and was always buzzing with customers, as my passion for film was becoming established and this offered me a much larger range of Laserdiscs, whilst the U.K. range was limited to Universal, Paramount, Columbia/Tri-star and 20th Century Fox, basically whatever HMV and Pioneer where selling at the time.
It was thanks to Pioneer that we had Laserdiscs in the U.K. in the first place with their revival in the 1990’s, but they only served to wet our appetites for DVD’s and the digital revolution truly began in 2000’s.
I took advantage of HMV’s £399.99 Laserdisc player offer along with five discs back in 1998, primarily to get hold of more widescreen films, unaware of the increased quality. But soon, after discovering Laser 2000, I was in the market for a NTSC compatible player, the Pioneer CLD-515 if I remember correctly, the HMV offer version being only comfortable with PAL, or U.K. discs, also only playing one side of the two-sided discs at a time. The 515 played both sides but this still was no good for most films, which came on two discs anyway.
I ended up going a few doors down to MVE, Manchester Video Exchange(?), which is where Coral (Bookmakers) are now and picking one up the 515 second-hand, but it wasn’t cheap. But no sooner had I invested it this, that DVD was growing in popularity and Laserdisc was almost wiped out overnight, with hardly any new releases by 1999, leaving films like Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) out in the cold. There was at least a release of Star Wars: Episode I only in the Eastern market and incredibly expensive. This left me with the task of spending another £400 on a Pioneer DVD player, one which I still have somewhere.
I also remember, that they were caught out selling Region 1/NTSC discs and were forced to stop selling them which I would presume made their position untenable. Whether this was their death knell I’m not sure.
Here are few Laserdiscs which stick out in my mind which I bought from Laser 2000 or HMV..
- INDEPENDENCE DAY: SPECIAL EDITION (1996/1998) I paid £80 for this and it would take a few years for it to appear on DVD but has still not become available on Blu-ray.
- RANSOM: EXTENDED CUT (1996) This has NEVER been released on DVD or Blu-ray.
- STAR WARS SPECIAL EDITION TRILOGY (1997) £99.99 was the price of this set. Seemed reasonable at the time. I still have this box set, though I can’t play it as I have no Laserdisc player anymore. The only other versions of these which are available are on VHS as they were changed again for the DVD release (2004) and AGAIN for the Blu-ray box set (2011).
- TITANIC (1997) A huge fan of the film at the time, I was pretty chuffed when this was released two weeks earlier on Laserdisc, almost cancelling a night out to watch it. Luckily, I opted to go clubbing and have a life, but attempted to watch it at four in the morning with my mate when we got back. Didn’t last long…
I have recently found a copy of one of Laser’s leaflets/catalogues so they did exist and it wasn’t just a figment of my imagination, but other than that, they have faded into memory and a poor one at that. Hopefully one which this blog will be able to keep alive, if only in a small way.