Fiction

I Miss Video Rental Stores

No one younger than 19 will be able to understand what I’m talking about in this article. Well, sit down kids. Time for a history lesson.

Long ago, there were two options in watching a movie. Option one: buy the thing. This was often the simplest method, if the slightly more pricey and risky one. If you hadn’t already seen it in theaters and new its quality, you were taking a gamble. That method is still around, though you don’t often need to use it. Not with all the streaming services around. Although this option certainly makes it easier to watch what you want, since it eliminates the need to pay for too many services.

Option two has since been slain by said streaming services. That option was a rental store. Like the fabled Blockbuster and Hollywood Video.

These stores were simple in function. You’d get a membership, go in, pick up whatever movies (and sometimes games), then rent them at the desk. You’d have a few days with them, then you’d need to return them. Fail to do that and you’d be charged a fee. Simple stuff.

And undoubtedly not without fault.

For one: people are stupid. And if there’s one thing stupid people are good at, it’s breaking shit. So, more often than not, the videos would be busted. If you could find one that worked as intended, chances are that it’s new. If not, then you were exceptionally lucky.

Two: it made piracy stupid easy. Pick up a movie/game, rip the shit off of the disc, and boom. You’ve got it forever. You never need to buy a movie again. You could return whatever you rented that same day and none would be the wiser.

I would know. My dad used to do it all the time.

Three: the inventory was limited. If the movie you were looking for wasn’t there, you’d need to go find another one and hope for the best. If you can’t find it, then you’re just fucked. Sorry, pal.

It’s easy to see why the advent of online streaming so quickly murdered the video rental store. They are simply more convenient in every possible way. Ten or so bucks a month to watch any movie you want right from home? No need to worry about return fees or leave the house? Of course it would slaughter its older competition!

But video rental stores had a certain charm to them. Some of the most fun I ever had as a kid was going in there with my family and looking for something new to watch. We found some of our favorite movies and games that way. It was a damn fun time!

The passage of time wipes away many things. Some of them are for the best. But others will always leave a hole in my soul. The death of video rental shops fall into the ladder category. I wouldn’t want to go back to them. But I do look back on them very fondly.

I wonder if my dad still has his old Blockbuster membership card… I’ll need to check.

3 thoughts on “I Miss Video Rental Stores”

  1. I do miss video stores! Especially the mom & pop stores before Blockbuster and Hollywood Video took over the market. These local stores had a community/family vibe that I miss in today’s corporate home video system. But frankly, the late fees were brutal and the choices were limited to what the owner thought could generate money.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For years, it was a Friday night routine for my wife and I… We’d skipped cable to save a few bucks and so after dinner, we’d drive up to the video rental store and rent a movie for Friday and Saturday night. We picked that particular one because it was both a) huge, and b) we could get to it the back way, no big busy main roads.

    No disks in that era though… it was all tapes. Disks were just starting to penetrate into the market.

    Ah, to be young and in love again… Well, actually the young part. It’ll be 31 years come this June and we’re still in love.

    Sad story about that local chain though. That building had it’s roof collapse in the ’96 storm (one of many buildings damaged in the county), they moved into the new building in ’97 and then in ’99 or ’00 the owner was indicted for tax fraud and the company went under. The building was split into smaller spaces, but the video store sign remained up until the front of the building was remodeled in late ’19.

    Liked by 1 person

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