The film’s first release in 1975 was on 16mm film, when it only played in movie theaters and film festivals.
Around 1985, VHS cassettes were in wide enough usage that small films like Love Letter could be distributed to individual collectors. They were duplicated in real-time in banks of VHS recorders.
The first 16mm to tape transfer was done at a small video production house in Owings Mills, MD by a company that produced professional wrestling programs and happened to have a film to 1″ tape transfer machine. The company’s owner happened to be a former math teacher at my high school and gave me a good deal.
From that master, I made a 3/4″ industrial grade video copy, which was the dub master for the hundred or so VHS copies I made at Quality Films and Video in Baltimore, which was also the lab for all John Waters’ 16mm films (through Desperate Living). I advertised these VHS mainly with a classified ad in Rolling Stone, and sold a few at Edith’s Shopping Bag store in Fells Point. Edith had died in California in 1985, but her old partner still kept the store going, specializing in Dreamland collectables.
The number of videos sold didn’t quite pay for all the duplication and advertising costs, so it went out of print for about 8 years. At that time a company called “Hit’nRun” films, which specialized in underground films re-transfered it and designed a colorful new cover. They made about 1,500 copies, but I never received payment. In the mid 90s, I made yet another transfer to digital Betacam video tape with Roland House Video in Arlington, VA, re-designed the cover for DVD, and added 15 minutes of personal memoirs to the program. I made 1,000 DVDs, which sold out in about 5 years.
Since then I still sell about 75 copies a year, and make them 50 at a time with the DVD-R process. I still have the 16mm original from 1975 and could make a HD transfer, then sell Blu-Ray HD copies. That could cost about $2,500. Maybe it would be a good Kickstarter project.