The Video Store, Last Of The Classics
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The Video Store, Last Of the Classics

Remember a time when the only place you could see a movie was in a theatre or hoofing it to the local video store which used to be on every corner? I do, and am fortunate enough to live just steps away from a small, independent store that is the neighbourhood Mecca for those of us who, while still fully entrenched in the digital culture whether we like it or not, enjoy the physical experience of browsing at a store complete with pictures, plot synopsis and a live person who can actually converse. I am part of a thin clientele that may eventually not exist.

Even being on the high end of competence when it comes to living digitally, I am overwhelmed by the myriad choices we have to experience the, once simple, pleasure of being whisked away to some fantasy place and time. I am downright intimidated by the methods from which can choose to be entertained. There are pros and cons to each of them, along with a range of costs, and complexity of usability or equipment. On demand TV, Internet downloads, Apple TV, bootlegged/pirated, and likely more that are not on my radar. Don’t even get me started on what equipment and or subscription or membership you need in order to get the chosen media to work. I wouldn't be able to tell you any way.

Admittedly I was a customer of the large video stores in years past, but I had always preferred the smaller, independent shops that offered both new releases, and the more obscure flicks that would never see the light of day in a commercial store. Independents, foreign language, rare films, generally all too esoteric for the masses. There is good news and bad news. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. With this past week’s announcement that the once ubiquitous Blockbuster will close the doors on the last three hundred stores in the U.S. by next year, the winds of change are old news.

In 2012, seventeen percent of storefront video shops closed. The good news is that these independent stores are the last ones standing. Living in Canada, we have already witnessed the slow hemorrhaging of the storefront video over the last few years, so our family is relishing the option to stroll to our local store, take in the movie posters, and enjoy the tactile bliss of turning the plastic case over in our hands to make the all important decision whether that movie would have the pleasure of making it home with us. The reasons that this rather sentimental experience has such a hold on me are plenty.

Most of us now accomplish digitally what we used to in person. Banking, shopping, communication... unless you have been living in a cave, you get the idea. So the fact that there is an independent, bricks and mortar video store that is not a publicly traded behemoth makes my analog heart sing. It’s so great to engage in a conversation with the guys in the store, because let’s face it; if you’re in the movie trade, you know a thing or two about movies. Any questions you have or recommendations you might welcome are easily fielded by staff. And the knowledge they have is interesting and can open your choices from the pedestrian main stream new releases to a different genre or older movie that has long been forgotten but hasn’t lost its cinematic merit. And service is alive and well. If something isn’t in, you will be contacted when it becomes available. Take that, Huge Telecom Giant On Demand.

With the movie industry constantly evolving, and technology rapidly erasing any delivery boundaries, the future of the storefront movie peddler is uncertain. The choke-hold on independents is only exacerbated by rising operating costs and margins that are just keeping up. It is hard enough to run a small business in a different vertical let alone one where technology is advancing faster than the bus in Speed, or better yet, the Millennium Falcon.

I personally plan on continuing to indulge my old school desire to make the trip to my neighborhood store, Movie Xpress, and hope that there is a happy and independent ending. And just like in any good movie, I love the romance of rooting for the underdog, the suspense of not knowing what will happen next, and the comedy of preferring to put my coat and boots on and go out in the cold to rent my plastic disk, than punch a few buttons into some heartless device at home in my housecoat. Regardless, I will continue to frequent my local video store to browse the old movie covers, read plot synopses and enjoy the personal service that only a human being can provide.


Street Talk

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