Friday, November 4, 2016

Video killed the rental store

VHS or Beta?

Did you appreciate the video rental store while you had it? Probably not. Instead you simply spent nearly every Friday night (and usually Saturday night, too) meandering around inside its walls looking for VHS tapes to rent. You'd browse as if you'd never been there before, always on the lookout for something new or old that you'd missed the previous week.

You tried to impress friends with your knowledge of cinema, something that any teenager can fake to another teenager because neither know a damn thing about anything yet. But you did know what movies you liked, even if you couldn't express why, exactly. That would come later, with more critical viewings on your own and in high school and then college film courses. For now, you only knew what films made you feel something—happy or sad or scared or excited or confused. Those were the movies you rented repeatedly.

In time the sleek and shiny (yet semi-soulless) DVD crowded the ugly and clunky (yet semi-charming) VHS off the shelves. By then the luster of the entire experience had waned for you anyway. You still loved movies but something about the video store itself had grown old, tired, perfunctory. Then one day—and really, these things never happen in a day but they tend to feel like they did—the video rental store was gone. Oh sure there are  still some scattered about, servicing rabid movie hounds somewhere, god bless them. You might have one nearby, but you don't really care to find out.

Now you find your movies on streaming services or Blu-ray or, when you're desperate and feeling the financial pinch, YouTube. Everything's at your finger tips now. You never mourned the loss of the video rental store; when it went away you shrugged. It's just one more in an endless line of experiences you won't have again that you never appreciate when you're having them. These experiences take place in public spaces that are huge parts of your life for years and then, suddenly, they're not. Usually you don't know its happened until after the fact and by then you've moved on, found new spaces within which to exist.


  1. The video store is something that our children will never know about. There'll be new ways of experiencing things, but even those will change. Technically things are improving, but I miss the places and the people. Sometimes we'd stand there for hours, amongst the rows of tapes, drinking tea and talking about life and movies and whatever else. Now it's a Chinese takeaway. That thing we loved is gone and exists only in our memories.

    1. This is so true. Places like this will only live on in our memories.