Pop culture is hitting the eject button on the VHS tape, the once ubiquitous home video format that will finish this month as a creaky ghost of Christmas past.

Pop culture is hitting the eject button on the VHS tape, the once ubiquitous home video format that will finish this month as a creaky ghost of Christmas past.

After three decades of steady if unspectacular service, the spinning wheels of the home-entertainment stalwart are slowing to a halt at retail outlets. On a crisp Friday morning in October, the final truckload of VHS tapes rolled out of a Palm Harbor, Fla., warehouse run by Ryan J. Kugler, the last major supplier of the tapes.

"It's dead, this is it, this is the last Christmas, without a doubt," said Kugler, 34, a Southern California businessman. "I was the last one buying VHS and the last one selling it, and I'm done. Anything left in warehouse we'll just give away or throw away."

Dumped in a humid Florida landfill? It's an ignominious end for a product that redefined film-watching in America and spawned an entire sector led by new household names like Blockbuster. Major chains gave up on VHS a few years ago but not Kugler, who casually describes himself as "a bottom feeder" with a specialization in "distressed inventory."

Kugler is president and co-owner of Distribution Video Audio Inc., a company that pulls in annual revenue of $20 million with a proud nickel-and-dime approach to fading and faded pop culture. Whether it's unwanted "Speed Racer" ball caps, unsold Danielle Steel novels or unappreciated David Hasselhoff albums, Kugler's company pays pennies and sells for dimes. If the firm had a motto, it would be "Buy low, sell low."

"It's true, one man's trash is another man's gold," Kugler said. "But we are not the graveyard. I'm like a heart surgeon — we keep things alive longer. Or maybe we're more like the convalescence home right before the graveyard."

The last major Hollywood movie to be released on VHS was "A History of Violence" in 2006. By that point major retailers such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart were already well on their way to evicting all the VHS tapes from their shelves so the valuable real estate could go to the sleeker and smaller DVDs and, in more recent seasons, Blu-ray discs. Kugler ended up buying back as much VHS inventory as he could from retailers, distributors and studios; he then sold more than 4 million VHS videotapes over the past two years.

Those tapes went to bargain-basement chains such as Dollar Tree, Dollar General and Family Dollar, and Kugler's network of mom-and-pop clients and regional outlets, such as the Gabriel Bros. Stores in West Virginia or the Five Below chain in Pennsylvania. If you bought a Clint Eastwood movie at the Flying J Truck Stop in Saginaw, Mich., or a "Care Bears" tape at one of the H.E. Butts Grocery stores in Texas, Kugler's company probably put it there. He also sells to public libraries, military bases and cruise ships, although those clients now all pretty much want DVDs.

Kugler estimates that 2 million tapes are still sitting on shelves of his clients' stores, but they are the last analog soldiers in the lost battle against the digital invasion. "I'm not sure a lot of people are going to miss VHS," he said, "but it's been good to us."

The VHS tape never really had a chance once the DVD arrived in the late 1990s with all its shiny allure — higher quality image, nimble navigation and all that extra content. After a robust run at the center of pop culture, VHS rentals were eclipsed by DVD in 2003. By the end of 2005, DVD sales were more than $22 billion and VHS was slumping badly but still viable enough to pull in $1.5 billion. Next year, that won't be the case.

Just before Halloween, JVC, the company that introduced the Video Home System format in 1977 in the United States, announced that it no longer would make stand-alone videocassette recorders. The electronic manufacturer still produces hybrid VHS-DVD players, but it's not clear how long that will last.

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For a format that made Hollywood so much money, VHS leaves behind a shallow footprint in the movies themselves. There was "The Ring," a 2002 horror movie and its 2005 sequel, about a mysterious VHS tape that brings death to whoever watches it, but that's a sad valentine. This year Jack Black and Mos Def starred in "Be Kind Rewind," a loopy comedy that finds its center at a VHS rental store that is holding out against the DVD era, but the rebellion didn't go beyond the script — the movie is available for rent or purchase on DVD and Blu-ray, but it was never released on VHS.

The format was also name-checked in "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," the 2005 hit film that stars an unloved salesman at an electronics store; and even he has no room in his heart for the underdog format. "It's a dead technology," he explains to a customer. "It's like buying an eight-track player."

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Kugler is one of the rare people who can stir up some nostalgia for the black, boxy tapes. His father bought Distribution Video Audio in 1988 and carved out a niche as an inventory supplier for the video rental stores that were popping up everywhere. His young son was interested in a different end of the entertainment business; the younger Kugler spent many afternoons in his teen years sneaking onto the Paramount Pictures studio lot and soaking it all in. While watching the cast at work on "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," he decided he wanted to become a filmmaker; soon, the kid who was always underfoot on the "Cheers" set even coaxed Ted Danson to appear in a two-minute film he made.

But life took Kugler on a less glamorous path. He started working at Distribution Video Audio in 1991 and in short order took the company to new heights by negotiating directly with studios to buy their overrun inventory.

The approach led the company beyond VHS, and soon Kugler's warehouses were filling up with CDs, books and merchandise like "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" wristwatches and "America's Next Top Model" T-shirts.

The majority of his firm's business today is with big-box retailers including Target, Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Sears, where the company sets up displays of its discounted DVDs, such as "Superman Returns" and "Proof of Life," which are often priced at $10 or less. Plenty of customers see that price as an invitation to build their DVD collections.

But Kugler, with a sly smile, offered a warning to consumers thinking of putting up shelving to handle their burgeoning libraries.

"The DVD will be obsolete in three or four years, no doubt about it. Everything will be Blu-ray," Kugler said, anticipating the next resident at his pop culture retirement home. "The days of the DVD are numbered. And that is good news for me."