Even people who don’t know me know I love movies, even mediocre ones. I’ve had revelatory experiences inside video rental stores, so I have a real affection for these places.
On the rare occasion I find myself inside one, I’ll spend several minutes browsing. But, I couldn’t tell you the last thing I rented.
The last time I visited my video spot, the windows were papered over and there was a maudlin goodbye note from the owners.
The last time I was actually inside a video rental store, a guy in the back was replacing the headphone jack on my old iPhone. They also sold ice cream and performed VCR repair. I wouldn’t be surprised to go back now to learn that they sharpen knives and lawnmower blades. It’s rough out there.
Video store workers hold vast stores of information about movies, often a particular genre. A clerk once foisted a copy of “Manhunter” on me as I rented “Silence of the Lambs,” and I’m still appreciative.
I like the fact that I can still go into a store to browse through DVDs, but I love digital distribution even more. My life is enriched by instant access to movies on multiple devices. Watching “Empire Strikes Back” on a laptop while I soaked in a bathtub was almost as much fun as it was in the theater 30 years ago. Fine, I’m weird.
I sympathize/empathize with video store employees, but their industry’s gone from essential to quaint for coastal urban elites like myself and also for red-blooded Americans who love Raymond. My parents haven’t been to their local video store since I gifted them with a Netflix subscription years ago. They have better things to do than spend 45 minutes coming and going so they can watch about 240 minutes of home video.
Yes, Internet killed the video store. Just like the movies strangled vaudeville and television put two in radio’s head before dumping it in a shallow grave. It’s worthwhile to consider their passing, I just don’t see it as something to get mournful about. People used to pay to look at stereograms, too.
To me, the bigger question is: where does the knowledge go after all the video stores become froyo parlors and green pet boutiques? At this stage in human history, anyone who works in a video rental store must be a hardcore movie geek. Careerwise, most will likely wander the Earth like Cain, but if Hollywood can find a way to tap this resource, we’ll all be better off.