I remember when I was young, there was this local video store, it wasn’t owned by a chain of any kind which was surprising for a town with two Global Videos and one Blockbuster (both large video store chains). The store was dark with a TV in the back, there were shelves on every wall and on those shelves littered empty video cases, with their glorious inner sleeves showing their wonders.
I used to browse the shelves with no agenda, picking up chunky video after chunky video; I only ever remember renting from it once, then it shut down quickly after.
Strangely, in a local off licence there was a glass case with videos behind it, it seems they rented films too. I had the pleasure of seeing Big Trouble in Little China and Police Academy when we rented them from there.
In the late 80s and early 90s it seems everywhere was a video store.
Then my Dad would take me periodically to the local Global Video store. I must have rented Star Wars a million times, it’s actually a wonder how no one ever just caved and bought me it considering how much money I wasted renting it. Once I was supposed to be renting The Empire Strikes Back, we get home and I ran upstairs, shoved the video into the video player and sat back ready to see planet Hoth in all its wonder. To my surprise I saw George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino kidnapping some woman and shooting up a shop.
It would seem they gave me From Dusk Till Dawn instead of Empire (because we all know how similar they are), I didn’t complain, I said nothing to no one for fear that I was clearly not supposed to see that film.
It used to be an adventure going to the video shop. I remember a massive cardboard cut-out of Robocop – when you passed a motion sensor went off and he said ‘Your move creep’ – there were posters everywhere and Global had a trailer TV and then one playing the latest films. If you asked nicely they were usually obliging with a poster or two.
Most of the videos I owned were actually ex-rentals, it was a wonderful idea, once a video had been rented a million times or they had too many copies they would sell it for a fraction of the store price. I picked up so many videos from there, and you could always tell as the cases were a good bit bigger than the store bought ones, so much so they never properly fitted in my video unit.
Then it was time for DVD, slowly the videos moved over in favour of the slimmer and smaller DVD cases, the popularity of the Playstation 2 and it’s built in DVD drive helped give DVD a push. It’s funny, I remember asking my Mum for a DVD player and a copy of Dawn of the Dead (original) for Christmas, she refused saying that DVD wouldn’t last… who’s laughing now, Mum?
The videos were disappearing and these stores seemed more DVD than video.
When Global Video made the move to include tanning booths in their shop I decided to high tail it over to Blockbuster, very soon Global would go bankrupt anyway, one of their shops had already closed in the town.
When I was first dating my now wife we used to drive down to Blockbuster at the weekend and rent three DVDs. They were usually crap films or just random horror films but it was an experience and something we loved doing.
When we moved to the city there wasn’t really anywhere near us to rent from so it was down with renting and our proper DVD collection started.
Soon after this I read about Global Video going bankrupt, they had a huge blowout sale and we went to buy a few DVDs. So what was it that made a once successful shop die a death?
Well for one, Global’s selection had become pretty poor, Blockbuster had a deal with distributors that it would receive all the newest films a week earlier than Global. By the time Global got it people had already been renting for a week from Blockbuster. This is when Global put out a huge advertising campaign ‘Get it first time or get it free, that’s the Global guarantee’, in my opinion this was the end of them. They spent lots of money on an ad campaign that really went nowhere. Yes the catchy slogan still runs around my head but it didn’t matter, Blockbuster still had everything a week early.
Without competition, Blockbuster had it good for a while, they even tried an automated rental system which failed miserably. Then DVDs came down in price and it was less expensive to buy and with sites like Play.com offering free delivery you could essentially buy a DVD for just over the price of renting, so why bother renting?
Nowadays, I don’t see many video stores, there are still Blockbusters around but I’m no longer a member. The internet has killed half their business, DVDs are now at their cheapest in years and even the newer media of Blu-Ray isn’t enough to keep people renting. Why pay £3.50 for a rental when you can pay a little more to a company like LOVEFILM.com and receive DVDs through the post. Then there’s the fact that these online rental sites have such a vast library, I don’t see the cheesy horrors or crazy action movies I would rent from the shelves of Blockbuster anymore.
Growing up it was my dream to own one of these shops, then after watching Kevin Smith’s Clerks I wanted even more to own one, but even though I’m not a businessman I know when a market is dead.
It sounds ridiculous but kids born today will never know the wonder of video rental, or DVD rental (Christ I don’t think a kid today could tell you what a video is), it really is a dead end and that to me is a real shame.
Not only was it a visceral experience but it was a shared moment with my parents, something we done every so often and something we all enjoyed. My wife’s father used to take her to the video store every Saturday and they would rent a few videos and have a movie night. This is something that won’t happen now with services like Netflix the only thing you need to do is click a few buttons, there’s nothing tangible now, there’s no feeling and to me that’s sad.
Maybe I should buy a video store for nostalgia sake… nah I’m not that stupid.