With countless streaming services at our disposal (hi there, hoopla!) and legions of Redboxes in every neighborhood, it's hard to believe that we once had to leave our homes and interact with a living, breathing, possibly sweating movie nerd to get our hands on the film of our choice (by the way, the legendary Scarecrow Video in Seattle's University District is still standing and boasts a comprehensive, meticulously cataloged film collection if you prefer the anachronistic approach. Meet me in the Psychotronic room!)
Personally, I mourn the widespread loss of the brick-and-mortar video store. The trek to our perpetually musty-smelling local rental shop was a beloved Friday night ritual for my family when I was growing up. It was a small but lovingly curated business. If they didn't have the movie you wanted, one of the die-hard cinephiles behind the counter was sure to find something else you'd like. And while I certainly appreciate and welcome the ease and accessibility of the boundless viewing choices online, the joy of those revelatory evenings spent at the video store can never truly be replicated.
Thankfully, there are plenty of like-minded Luddites out there who think this bygone era is one worth preserving, documenting, and obsessively discussing.
Former Premiere magazine editor Tom Roston goes beyond the standard lament surrounding the obsolescence of physical media in this fascinating oral history of the video store. Through a spirited series of interviews with contemporary movie directors, Roston shows how video stores helped democratize the study and appreciation of film and inspired a generation of outlaw filmmakers.
Yes, I recognize the irony of promoting a streaming movie in this post! But what conversation about video stores would be complete without an ode to that most sacred and game-changing of formats, the VHS tape? Rewind This! is an affectionate, engaging, and surprisingly revealing look back at the glory days of VHS and the vibrant community of obsessive collectors determined to ensure that the format lives on. Don't miss collector Julia Marchese's color-coded wall of VHS tapes!
As any VHS connoisseur will tell you, sometimes a tape's preposterous cover art is reason enough to add it to your collection! The fine folks behind the Found Footage Festival have accomplished an admirable feat of videotape archaeology in VHS: Absurd, Odd, and Ridiculous Relics From the Videotape Era, with dozens of exquisitely bizarre VHS covers organized into various categories such as "Leotards & Sweat," "For the Ladies," and "Confusing & Mysterious!"
If you were a video store customer in the mid- to late-1980s, there's a good chance you rented a movie from the prolific and disreputable Cannon Films at least once. This goodhearted, ebullient documentary tells the story behind the notorious production studio that brought us low budget classics like Breakin' and Masters of the Universe, with outrageous personal anecdotes and interviews cut with clips from inspiredly ludicrous movies you've never heard of!