When I came across this article recently, it confirmed what I had feared for a long time - the humble video shop is finally nearing its end. It’s sad to see, but hardly surprising. Films seem to jump from the Cinema screen to retail DVD and Sky almost instantaneously these days and downloading (legally or otherwise) offers a way of viewing the latest Pixar masterpiece without making a trip outside your house (a topic for a future posting I think). I’ve even been lured into using one of the easy and stress-free on-line rental services available.
When I was growing up, there were three shops in my small town which stocked films. One was exclusively for video hire, another was a general store with a large selection and the other was the local Spar, which is now the only one which still rents films out. Spar’s video section back then was almost another shop in itself, housing hundreds of those huge, bulky VHS cases in every available space. Gradually through the years however, the stock has diminished to a point where the last time I visited, it had been relegated to a flimsy corner space, with literally a handful of DVD’s available, all mainstream studio titles.
Before the advent of digital, the video shop was a veritable treasure trove of cinematic all-sorts. Although I had much love for the big Hollywood titles on offer, I was equally enthralled by the multitude of cheap, straight-to-video genre B-movies available, with their lurid, air-brushed covers and trashy but always fun content. It also brings a smile to my face when I remember Crocodile Dundee being the most sought-after title back in the late-eighties. Seriously, that film was like gold-dust. I can still see my Dad, more than once, coming back from the video shops empty-handed, having been unable to procure a copy, much to the intense disappointment of his family. It was like he’d failed to provide for us that week or something. It was hilarious really. I mean, does anyone still remember that film now, let alone consider it a classic, worthy of a place in their all-time favourites list? My memories probably seem very quaint and whimsical now, but the local video shops really did possess a weird power over our community.
I think companies like Lovefilm offer a fantastic, alternative rental service for both the modern cineaste and any discerning film fan but they lack the unique experience that the video shop once offered. The opportunity to seek out or chance upon an unknown film, in both an intimate and tangible way, is a major loss to the young film-buffs of today - a similar grievance, I imagine, that lovers of vinyl have in the digital i-tunes age.
Look at me being all overly-nostalgic and wistful. You’d think these were the ramblings of an old man, not a sad thirty-something film geek. Perhaps I’ll console myself by watching Be Kind, Rewind again or Clerks for the 100th time.