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8mm film was first introduced by Kodak in 1932 as an economical alternative (during the Depression) to 16mm, which had become the popular amateur gauge during the prosperous 20's. Though 8mm was first introduced primarily as a medium for photographing home movies, like 16mm it was used to market home versions of theatrical releases.  It did not gain wide acceptance as an entertainment medium until after WWII.
The films whose cover art is featured on this site were known as “packaged movies”, which were essentially one-reel (7-10 minute) condensations of feature-films, produced from the late 50's – mid 70's. Physically they were approximately 150-175 feet of film wound on a 200ft. reel and packaged in a 5.25 inch reel box. Not only were these films a fraction of the running time of the features from which they were derived, but most commonly they were silent, subtitled, and B/W regardless of whether or not their full length counterparts had been sound films or in color. During the mid-60's, availability of sound home-movie projectors prompted companies to release many of these titles with magnetic audio tracks, and by the 70's longer 400ft. (approx. 17 min) sound editions would squeeze the 200ft. editions out of production.
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FRAMES FROM A REGULAR 8MM PRINT OF “DRACULA”
FRAMES FROM A SUPER 8MM PRINT OF “PSYCHO”
There are two kinds of 8mm film, “regular 8mm” and “Super 8mm”. Super 8 was introduced in 1965, and its advantage over regular 8mm was a decreased sprocket-hole size which freed up more space on film for the image itself. Most of the 200ft digests were available in both formats, but the improved pictorial quality of Super 8mm would eventually make regular 8mm obsolete.
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A REGULAR 8MM film projector from the early 60’s
A popular SUPER 8MM SOUND FILM PROJECTOR FROM THE EARLY 80’S
Obviously an eight-minute extraction couldn't offer the same narrative flow of the features from which they were edited, but one must remember that these titles were popular when the movies-on-demand convenience of home-video was still many years away and few homes had cable. Castle Film's digests were probably the most skillfully edited and produced, although their effort to retain some trace of the original film's storyline would occasionally result in the omission of scenes that meant more to the collector than continuity.  When sound came along Castle also made the effort to edit the soundtracks, thus eliminating abrupt audio jumps that characterized some of their competitors' digests. Consumer demand eventually prompted the success of longer and longer multi-reel digests, and eventually the release of full-length features. The medium transformed from a pocket-money novelty that one could find on department store shelves or in the back of their “Famous Monsters” magazine to a rather elitist and costly collector's only medium (the average full-length color feature was going for between $250 - $400 by the early Eighties).
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A HIGH-END FEATURE-LENGTH MGM TITLE FROM THE EARLY 80’S
A UNIVERSAL 8 400 FT.
EDITION FROM THE EARLY 80’S
By the mid-Eighties, videocassettes had pretty-much killed the 8mm film business.  In the US, collectors couldn't justify paying three to four times the price of a VHS or Beta version of their favorite film (though 8mm offered better quality than most comparable early videos), and many either “went video” or took a step up to 16mm. European markets held on longer but eventually also threw in the towel, with the exception of British company Derann Films, which is still (as of this writing) releasing gorgeous new Super 8 prints of Disney, Hammer Horror, and MGM titles.

Currently the film collector is left with many perplexing issues, regardless of format. Production of both 8mm and 16mm projection equipment has effectively ceased, and many died-in-the-wool collectors have had to become projector mechanics- buying several of the same model to use for parts, stocking up on projection lamps and belts for fear of eventual unavailability. The production of new prints has dwindled down to a trickle and will only continue as long as 8mm & 16mm film stocks are manufactured. Buying older prints can be a risky but rewarding venture given that most have seen a lot of use by this time.  To make matters worse, many color film stocks introduced in the 60's onward were not stable, and they are fading to red. Still, there is a core group of collectors keeping film alive and online auction services such as eBay enjoy a brisk trade, with choice prints of desirable title still fetching top-dollar.
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