Andre Blay, Pioneer of Home Video, Dies at 81

Courtesy Robert Blay
Andre Blay

His company was the first to put theatrical motion pictures on videocassette. He later served as a top exec at Fox and Norman Lear's Embassy Communications.

Andre Blay, who came up with the idea of putting films on videotape and served as the first CEO of the home video division at 20th Century Fox, has died. He was 81.

Blay, who later produced several films, died Aug. 24 in Bonita Springs, Florida, his son, Robert, announced.

Blay launched Farmington Hills, Michigan-based Magnetic Video Corp. in 1969, and eight years later, MVC became the first company to release theatrical motion pictures on videocassette and Betamax, enabling people to watch movies in their homes.

He reached out to the Hollywood studios for permission to put their films on videotape, and Fox was the only one to reply. In return for a $300,000 advance and a $7.50 royalty on each title sold, it licensed 50 films to MVC, all released in 1973 or earlier.

Blay also formed the Video Club of America, and for a fee of $10, subscribers could buy a movie for $49.95. At the time, a VCR was selling for about $1,000.

In 1979, Fox bought MVC for $7.5 million, and Blay became president and CEO of the studio's home video arm.

Blay left Fox in 1981 to form his own company, but a year later joined Norman Lear and Jerry Perenchio at Embassy Communications as chairman and CEO of its new home entertainment division.

At Embassy, Blay greenlighted such films as Sid and Nancy (1986), Hope and Glory (1987) and Souvenir (1989) and was instrumental in raising funds for The Emerald Forest (1985), The Name of the Rose (1986) and The Princess Bride (1987).

He resigned from Embassy in 1986 after it was sold and formed Palisades Entertainment Group with producer Elliott Kastner. He then was an executive producer on Prince of Darkness (1987), The Blob (1988) and Homeboy (1988).

A native of Mount Clemens, Michigan, Blay received his bachelor's degree from Michigan State in 1957. 

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife of 60 years, Nancy; daughter Cynthia; and grandchildren Mae, Annie, Stephanie, Madison and Mackenzie.