I can remember a time in my childhood when the highlight of my weekend was a trip to the local video rental store. If I wasn’t going over to a friends place to play NCAA Football ‘06 or trying to stay awake long enough to watch Cathouse on HBO, I was more than likely watching a movie that was rented from a video store.
Everyone knows the drill here – 1-day rentals were the movies that had just left theaters. Stuff like American Wedding or Terminator: Salvation. 5-day rentals? That was the old shit. Movies like The Rock or Batman with Michael Keaton (gross).
DVDs were just starting to become a thing when I can first remember actively wanting, yearning to go to the movie store up the street from my childhood home. If my dad took me, I could usually get away with an R-rated flick. My mom was a lot more strict with what I was allowed to watch, but with dad? Yeah, sure you can get Not Another Teen Movie. Just watch it in the basement so your mother doesn’t find out. Caddyshack? I haven’t seen that movie in ten years, it’s probably fine (by the way, it’s not “fine” for a 10-year-old. Lots of innuendo in that movie).
So, yeah. It was always a good weekend when my dad took me to the rental store. And no, it wasn’t a Family Video. I was in a really rural part of Michigan a few weeks back and saw a Family Video still in operation. Like I saw real humans walking in and out of it. It was wild. I thought rental video stores went into extinction in like 2009, but apparently, people less cultured than myself and probably over the age of 50 are just now discovering HD DVDs. If you don’t remember HD DVDs, I’m probably too old for you.
I would say the cut-off point for people remembering how hype it was to pick up a new 1-day rental from the video store on a Friday night would be like 20 years old. If you’re under 20, all you know is blu-ray, and for that, I say “fuck you.” You don’t know the struggle of getting charged an extra two dollars and fifty cents for not rewinding a VHS tape before returning it. You don’t understand the heartbreak that comes along with going to the rental store, wanting to get Pirates of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl because it JUST came out on DVD and then finding that they’ve all been rented out already.
In any case, rental video stores used to be in high demand. Once DVDs came onto the scene in the late 90s, video rental store owners had to have seen the writing on the wall.
What does an owner of a video rental store do with all of those VHS tapes and DVDs? Sell them all on eBay? Enjoy all of those movies in the comfort of his/her own home? I don’t know. How do you transition from being the power owner of a rental video store when your product simply isn’t in demand anymore? It’s 2017 and I don’t think people with any sort of technological expertise use DVD players anymore. Everyone either watches movies illegally online or orders them through their cable provider. You don’t really even need movie theaters anymore.
I watch everything on my laptop. Just a standard Macbook Pro. No television in the bedroom and when I’m watching a movie I prefer to be in bed. I got my ass to the movie theater to see Manchester By The Sea, but other than that, I see no reason to ever watch another movie on a television again.
I guess the point of this whole ordeal is to say that I appreciated the video rental store. It’s a snapshot of where we were as a culture. Something you can quantitatively point to and say, “Hey, that video rental store is mid-2000s as fuck.” I hope all of the movie store owners – whether it was a Blockbuster, Family Video, or independently owned spot like I used to go to – are back on their feet. Never has an industry been in so high demand for so long and then suddenly dropped on it’s face quite like the video rental store. Cheers to a forgotten time. .
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