As a child, growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was always looking forward to the weekend. We used to visit a small, locally owned video store every Friday night, and my parents would allow me to rent a video or two. The shop had so many old and new treasures, and over time I rented just about every one of them.
I can remember when CDs were introduced into the mainstream, and I vowed to never purchase any, foolishly, because I had already built up a sweet cassette collection of all my favorite musicians. Over time I stubbornly evolved, realizing the sound quality was so much better, and started buying CDs, and then in the early 2000s evolved once again to mp3 players. However I can still find functioning record stores in my area, that also still occasionally sell cassettes, and have massive stocks of old and new CDs, that are and will remain in business, regardless of the advancements with mp3s and downloadable songs.
My VCR bit the dust one year, so I went to a local department store, and was talked into buying a VCR/DVD combo. I didn’t own any DVDs, nor did I want to, but I felt it didn’t hurt to have it. At that point, I worked in a video store in another town, and absolutely loved the video collection the local shop had amassed over the years.
The Beginning of the End
One day my manager told me we would start carrying DVDs, as an option to our customers who wanted superior picture and quality. Over the weeks I saw an immediate flaw, that a majority of the DVDs, I’d say about 99%, were all new releases. That’s fine and well, but a majority of the time, new releases don’t have much to offer, and personally I prefer watching the classics, movies ranging from the 20’s and 30’s, as well as into the 70’s and 80’s.
I noticed less and less people were renting our VHS tapes. They would often inquire whether we had certain movie in stock on DVD, and I’d have to tell them, “no, it’s rented out right now”, and most times they would just decide to go to Blockbuster. Larger chains would purchase about 40 copies a piece of new releases, leaving good odds you would find your title in stock.
As time went by, to make ends meet, the video store in which I worked started selling VHS tapes we had in stock, and I sadly watched videos being purchased that were not available on DVD. Near the end, carrying only a minute selection of DVDs that were hardly ever in stock, the video store went out of business and closed for good.
The local video store I frequently rented from as a child, that was mentioned earlier, also went out of business. A small family owned and operated that store, and they had a huge awry of hard to find titles, but people stopped visiting, because they were no longer renting VHS. Not having the money to fully re-invest into carrying DVDs, or just not wanting too, they closed their doors, and the building now remains a boarded up ghost of what it once was. Over the past five years alone, I can count at least 10 video stores within about a 25 mile range that have gone out of business.
The local video stores where the first to fall, to giants like Blockbuster, Video Update, Hollywood Video, and the likes. But they would soon fall too.
Fall of the Big Video Store Chains
Netflix introduced a website where you can select any DVD in their catalog, watch it at your leisure, and send it back after you view it, and they send you a new movie once they receive your return, all for a flat monthly fee.
Soon after, Redbox was introduced, renting new releases for a flat fee of $1.00 a night. This was perhaps the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
Blockbuster tried to copy Netflix’s formula, offering their customers the chance to sign up for a flat fee, and letting them rent as many movies as they would like, and allowing them to either mail them back, or exchange them in the store for a new selection. However it was a little too late, and Netflix had already gained a foothold in this market.
Recently I’ve noticed Redbox like Blockbuster machines at gas stations and supermarkets offering nightly rentals, however I feel this move was also too little to late. Blockbuster stock has dropped tremendously, and the local Blockbuster in my neighborhood has been closed for several years. Their boxes may continue into the future, but odds are all of their stores will close or be closed within the next 5 to 10 years.
Maybe what hurt the large-chain video stores the most, is as a policy they sell any movie not rented within a certain period of designated time, deeming the movie “unwanted by the public”, to clear up room for the massive amounts of new releases. However the day you do visit the store to rent a particular title, you find they no longer carry it. So why not pop onto Netflix, and check their huge extensive catalog of titles? Chances are, they have it. And if they don’t, you can save the title, and when they do start to carry it, it ships to you automatically.
The charming, locally owned video store is now a thing of the past. I must admit that I also contributed to it’s downfall as well, eventually signing up for Netflix, and occasionally renting a title from Redbox. But looking back at my childhood memories, I will miss the elegance and down-home appeal of renting VHS from a family business, and not from the internet, or someone in a Blockbuster uniform, whose knowledge of movies doesn’t go much further then the Twilight franchise.