I just passed the last small video store in my area. That I know of anyway. There was a Going Out of Business Sale sign in the window. Honestly, I don't know how they made it this long. Every time I passed there it was either empty or nearly empty. I personally hadn't been in there in months. Years, actually. I was sick of getting damaged DVDs from them. Even if they did exchange it or refund my money. Who wants to get home and start watching a movie only to have it crap out somewhere during its running time?
There's still some Blockbusters around, but I haven't liked that corporation in many, many years. I hear they're hurting too. Good.
It's sad to me to see the video stores go. I spent a substantial amount of time in them in the 80's. Shoot, in the 90's too. But I think I was most enraptured in the 1980's, when home video was new and still something unique.
I remember when there was only a few places around to rent movies. They were always crowded. This was when VCRs were still pretty expensive. Then in the course of a few short years, video stores were everywhere. The Videotape Revolution was in full effect and everyone was renting movies, buying blank tapes, and there were movie parties going on everywhere.
It seemed like there were video stores on every corner and just about every convenience store rented them too. Some of the little Mom and Pop shops had more eclectic stuff. But you'd never know what you'd find. Going into a new video store was always an exciting thing. There was always the chance that you'd find some movie that you had been searching for. There was no easy way to find out what was and what was not available on tape. Not like today with Amazon.com and IMDb to answer all of your questions.
Video stores were more than just places to rent your entertainment. They became social centers for some of us. It wasn't hard to find like-minded people and talk about the movies you liked. And you'd see the same faces hovering over the New Releases section like sharks in a feeding frenzy.
It seems impossibly long ago now. A place to meet strangers and talk about movies. Now we can find a thousand places on the Internet to babble all day and night about movies, but it's not the same. I never saw a flame war in a video store nor did I see any trollish behavior. There were some old-fashioned assholes here and there, but even that was rare. People were there for the love of movies.
By the time the 90's rolled around, things had died down to a point. Sure, people still rented movies and the stores were still doing good business. But the frenzy had waned. The newness of home video had worn off and people, ever fickle, were looking for something new. And they found it.
Video games weren't a new thing by then, but they were rapidly becoming more sophisticated. The younger people still liked movies, but more were becoming video game junkies. Why simply watch a movie when you could interact with the events on the screen? It was sexier and more exciting.
Maybe it isn't any better to be a movie geek than a video game junkie, but to me it always was and it always will be. I never picked up the gaming obsession and I'm glad that I haven't. I spend far too much time at this computer as it is without the addiction that I see people have with games.
DVD was a blow to the video stores. Collecting became affordable and who wanted to take back a movie when there were hours of content on a disc? To a lesser extent than the VHS heyday, movie fans became DVD enthusiasts. I was a member and rabid message board participant at the very first website that was devoted to horror DVD. But a lot of us fund that we were blowing tons of money on discs that we really wouldn't be watching very much.
Not that spending far too much money was a new thing in regard to home video. I wish I had the money I blew on rentals and blank tapes. I bought hundreds and they all became garbage.
The final, devastating blow to the video stores was Netflix, I think. And movie downloading (both legal and otherwise) continues to be a driving force in the industry.
I know that there are still movie rental stores, cool ones, especially in bigger cities. But it's not like it was. They've became the exception rather than the rule. Most of us either have Blockbuster, which I hate, or nothing at all.
The video store, such a vital part not only of my life, but of our culture, is dead. Rest in peace.