The video release of Cassavetes' Love Streams, the most interesting film of the ones that came out on video in his own day, illustrates that. Since it was co-produced by Canon Pictures, it was released on video. That's a plus. But the downside was the producers didn't like the fact that the original film had a 141-running time so they retaliated by doing a tiny release of only five hundred video copies and by cutting 19 minutes without telling Cassavetes. You know the Groucho Marx joke? The food in that restaurant is terrible and the portions are too small. Well, it's hard to say which was more discouraging—the tininess of the release or the fact that what was released was a cut print.
If you can believe it, the story gets even worse after that. Canon went out of business a few years later, so the only video release Love Streams ever got was the one back in 1985. The only way to get a video of Love Streams nowadays is to go on Ebay and buy one of the old, cut, used VHS cassettes.
The print situation for Love Streams is equally discouraging. When Canon went under, their library was sold to MGM/UA, and the elements of the film were lost. So until they are found, no one is able to make new prints. The few prints that are still around from 17 years ago are gradually wearing out—getting ever more scratched and spliced.
In a few years, there will be neither prints to screen nor cassettes to view—not even cut ones. Love Streams is an obvious candidate for a restoration project, but since there is no money to be made on the deal—either by a studio or by Cassavetes' estate—is it any surprise that no one is doing anything?
This is so sad. Reading the IMDB message boards about this film is just further depressing. Apparently, Sony recently made a new print of the film, but it appears that at least one scene was cropped. I imagine this is the same print that was supposed to be shown at BAM in the fall, but which was cancelled last minute. This film was also supposed to screen at McCarren Pool this summer, but that showing also was switched last minute to a different film. I wonder if something has happened to that print. I would really love see this film on a big screen in a restored version, but might go to Reel Life and rent the old VHS with 19 missing minutes(!) just to see this film since it does not seem like a restored version is ever going to happen on DVD.