Don Blair is the Executive Vice President of VCI Entertainment, a company started in the 1960’s by Don’s father, Bill Blair.
What first led your father to go into the movie business?
When my father was a kid in the town of Eufala, a rural farming community in Oklahoma, he picked cotton to buy his first projector. From that point on, he would show movies, clips and serials either in the local armory or in a tent pitched just outside of town. It was a hobby that turned his love for movies into a passion that he never called a job.
All three brothers, Robert, Don and David and sister Rebecca have been actively involved in the family business. Developing a passion for film came directly from our father’s influence. Growing up with a giant movie screen in our backyard where movies would be shown in the spring and summer evenings to any and all people willing to spread a blanket and bring a sack of popcorn was a big part. Also listening to my Dad’s vision of entertainment. He told us in 1970 that some day you would watch movies on some kind of disc or cartridge. That you would be able to pick up a movie at your local convenience store and watch it on a TV or other electronic device. It was easy to fall under the spell of entertainment. It simply became our calling.
How has the company changed over the years?
Founded in the early 1960’s as United Films Inc., the company began as a 16 MM non-theatrical rental business. With a library accumulated from licensing from the major studios and combined with films my father had purchased, the company rented films to universities, churches, airlines, off shore oil drilling companies and just about anyone who was looking for a way to entertain. In 1972, VCI, Video Communications Inc, was formed to begin utilizing the new magnetic video tape for production and archival purposes. When in 1975 the Betamax was introduced my father decided to offer movies on video tape. By 1976 VCI was one of the earliest pioneers in the Video business offering movies on Beta and VHS. By the 1980’s VCI began producing original direct to video feature films and in 1985 released the first film produced for the direct to video market. With the industry booming in the 1990’s and the major studios firmly entrenched, VCI decided to put its efforts into the sell-through side of the business and emphasize the more classic movie genres.
Since that time, VCI has become well known for its restoration efforts and library of well known and orphaned films available for purchase. Now in this changing industry, VCI has begun working into the digital age with the goal of finding its niche in this broad entertainment format.
What do you think distinguishes VCI from other distribution companies?
VCI is small, family owned and has always had its eye on what it knew it could accomplish. We’ve remained versatile enough to stay up with changes in the industry while maintaining a conservative outlook and course to future endeavors. We’re adventurous and cautious at the same time.
What has been your most successful film?
Without a doubt and without fail every year since 1981, our most successful film remains the 1951 Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol. It’s just a film that stands up today as well as it ever has.
What led to your interest in faith-based films?
Dad always liked Biblical stories. When he made the acquisition of The Miracle of Marcelino from 1955 we knew that these films would play an important part in the direction we wanted our library to go.
What are your future plans for VCI?
We’ve developed two new divisions in the VCI family. Indie-Go Movies, a new label that will promote independent productions of many genres to showcase the talents of many unknown directors. Our second of the 2 labels, Heartland Family Films, will be a new division for the acquisition of family and faith based films from around the world. We’ve released Pawn’s Move and are in the process of releasing another wonderful film, Flowers for Fannie in October. Both divisions have inspired us to become active in producing our own feature films and special interest projects beginning in 2014. VCI has also begun building its own platform for streaming and downloading our own brand of entertainment in the growing digital world.