Renting Movies at Video Stores… That Was Fun
Cleaning out a drawer recently, I found some of my old video membership cards. I got kinda sad.
It's no surprise to many that I'm a bit nostalgic. A romantic for days behind us. The junior high schoolers I work with joke that I'm old; I say I'm nostalgic and I kinda fear of anyone who isn't a bit themselves. About anything. I have no problem embracing/utilizing modern-isms and technology, but I'm not gonna ask for anyone's approval to stew in the memories of better days.
Not all of these modern-isms are great though mind you. Let's look at the movie rental world. Recently, I cleaned out one of my drawers at home containing biz cards, expired gift certificates and old membership cards. I came across a few video membership cards. Remember those? Not the cards, the stores.
I guess like Record Stores, I've always been excited visiting video stores. Simply put, there's things I like in there! Movies, live concert performances, documentaries, Benny Hill Collections. Oh and hey, on the way out I might realize I'm low on Milk Duds or Twizzlers. Trying streaming me those treats on Netflix!
Whether you walked to a mom & pop shop that had been around your neighborhood for years or even if you pulled up to a giant, over powering Blockbuster sign; there was a feeling experienced when going to rent a movie that's been lost. There you are, arriving from your journey seeking something entertaining that you can focus on for a short time, rather than everything going on in the world around us. Walking in and seeing in one glance thousands of options. Sections for everything. People sharing reviews. Seeing posters for upcoming releases. Stumbling across a movie you hadn't seen in years. That was a thrill. Was.
You guys know how it all went down; as technology came on like a tidal wave the past 15-18 years, some things were compromised and eventually dissolved. Don't get me wrong I'm pretty happy to not have to leave the house at 9:48 before the stores closes at 10 to return a movie. Those speedy trips could always ruin a night, right? Also, you gotta love not having to deal with the weight of $30 in late fees hanging over your head like a mob debt.
With Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, it's neat and easy now. Pick, click and watch. So what's missing? To most people, nothing. It's the enjoyment of no hassles and keeping your ass on the couch.
To me, there's plenty that was lost. Like titles for one. The depth of some of these streaming sites are just ok. Not a fraction of what they could or should be though. Times were great when I could walk into a video store and find odd ball films and fan favorites like, "They Call Me Bruce", "Amazon Women on the Moon", "Carbon Copy", "The Wild Life" or "The Decline of Western Civilization". These sites aren't streaming enough great new stuff to act like a boss yet if you ask me. So, why don't they have a stronger back catalog to make up for that? There's so many movies out there. Think of some old personal favorites of yours that weren't major hit movies. Why don't they have those?! Stock is king.
Redbox is kinda cool.. if you need to get grocieries! The selection is just the new stuff though and how annoying is waiting in line at Redbox? It's like the DMV's annoying little brother!
If you have kids, I suppose streaming movies is a blessing. When it's movie time, you can just tell them to pick one and it's on. They have to pick from those sites though. It's their only rental option. They can't say, "I don't see the Disney movie I want. They have it at the video store though so let's goooooo!" Kids today don't even know what video stores are! They've been gone that long. So streaming sites is it. Lucky you parents! Poor kids...
I gotta think maybe the best part about video stores going away and the arrival of movie technology is that it makes renting adult titles a lot easier and more private. Remember those rooms that were always in the back of the store? Even if you were two sections away from that room roaming around, people suspected you were trying to go in there. No matter how coy you thought you were, James Bond couldn't even sneak into those rooms without being noticed. I'm sure anyone going in there felt like the town perv too which isn't fair. In most cases. Video places near me growing up had the beaded curtain or saloon doors which helped you wake up the neighborhood when you snuck back to grab a copy of Taboo. Back then, sneaking into the adult video room was a part of life. A rite of passage for growing teenagers. Now you can download porn instantly on your phone while riding up an escalator in the mall. Not as fun or thrilling.
The other thing I miss is being around people who also love movies. When you go to a video store there's people there who love movies. You worked at a video store cause you loved movies or maybe even wanted to make them. That being said it was cool to get some recommendations. I didn't always follow through on those suggests cause they weren't always on point . However I do remember someone working at a store when I was younger who turned me onto Peter Sellers movies besides the Pink Panther stuff. That opened the door to "Dr. Strangelove", "Being There", etc. Sure you can google reviews, but if you trust someone on the internet from who knows where more than the dude you can see on a weekly basis down the street - more power to ya.
Don't get me wrong, I stream movies. I mean you kinda have to these days to see them at home. I go to the movies plenty, I buy a mess of movies too, but you need that temporary ownership option as well. I just think we search for ease and simplicity so much these days that we miss out on simple good times too. There's some things that should be enjoyed from the start to the end of the experience. "Going to get a movie" included a build up, the promise of good entertainment, the drama of your title being in stock or not, the added dinner or snack component that you'd pick up to go along with your movie(s) and the process of your mind realizing in a little while I'm gonna chill and I'm going to enjoy this. Instant gratification steals so much from the process. Don't rush to gratification. It's worth the wait.
Not all is lost in Portland though. We're lucky to still have the wonderful Jet Video on the corner of Pleasant and Stevens doing their thing. They've got ice cream too! Of course who can forget Videoport in downtown Portland. A legendary store that maintains a true passion for all kinds of movies, old and new. Excellent staff and excellent stock. If you love movies around here, you know Videoport well. Also, big shout to Bart & Greg's DVD Explosion in Brunswick. That might be one of the most impressive video stores I've ever seen.
SHOULD BLOCKBUSTER & NEW INVESTORS FIND REASON TO REOPEN AND YOU WANT TO WORK FOR THEM, HERE'S SOME OLD TRAINING VIDEOS!
COOL BIT ABOUT A MOM & POP VIDEO STORE IN DANBURY, CT THAT CLOSED