What happened to video stores? I’ll admit towards the end, I was not renting regularly at my local neighborhood shop, Déjà Vu Video, in Albany. I’d make a special trip to find some obscure art house gem. Other than that I had started to use my cable’s on-demand service (in hindsight this was a mistake) but I didn’t think video stores would disappear entirely.
It seemed that one day video stores were here and the next they were gone. Not so long ago I was out at a restaurant that had a Hollywood Video next to it. Now, I refused to support the big, corporate guys, namely Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. But at that point I could see the writing on the wall, video stores were going the way of the dinosaur. I decided to go in, get a membership and rent some videos, just so my son could experience something that had played such a large role in my life.
Cut to: Wayne and Garth waving their arms, saying dittle-lee-do, dittle-lee-do. I grew up in the age of video. I was eight years old when my family first got a VCR. I remember the first film we rented –“48hrs” starring Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. Yup, a nice R-rated film for family time. Anyway, I consumed movies and later on I worked at some video stores, one being the dreaded Blockbuster. It was the age of videotape, Sega Genesis and late fees! I have a great affinity for this bygone era. Who wouldn’t love a place where you have endless cinematic options? It was an experience cruising the shelves in search of that perfect title.
There are a few theories out there on what happened but basically it was a slew of bad business decisions made by large corporations, who by that point controlled the industry. At the same time new alternatives like Netflix and on-demand services started to appear. Let’s be honest- just clicking with your remote, going online or getting a DVD in the mail is easy! The result is we wake up one day and there is no more video stores. The most disturbing part of this whole story is no one seems to care. I can understand that they might not be as popular as they once were, given the convenience and selection of the alternatives but to have them gone and forgotten?
Now to tie this back to local independent film, because that’s why you’re here, right? Your local video stores supported true independent film from the start. Not only could you usually find a great selection of independent or hard to find films but some indie filmmakers were able to market their film directly to these video stores. The films could then get shelf time and were much more likely to be rented and watched then someone finding it on the World Wide Web! This was especially true in the beginning when no one really knew where this video thing would go.
Basically what I’ve come to realize is we’ve forgotten a portion of cinema culture as fast as they’ve re-casted Batman!
Do we realize what we’ve lost? Can we go back? Or is our media consumption and the Internet forever tied together?
To be continued...