The Extinction of Video Rental Stores.

When I was a kind, renting movies was a part of my Friday night life.

It was a small town; what the fuck else was there to do?

My friends, sister and I would be sitting around at home and asking ourselves, “what should we do today?” and the answer was almost always, “let’s go rent a movie.” So we’d all hurry out the door and three or four blocks down to the rental place to end all rental places, Video Stop. Convenience stores in Jasper rented movies too, but Video Stop was the mecca; they had it all: alternative DVDs, Oscar winners, comedies, new releases, a Top 100 Rentals section, kids’ movies, TV on DVD, drama, romance, foreign, Canadian, a whole shelf of movies that were made in Jasper (including the Due South season containing the one episode they filmed in J-Town), and they even had a shelf of movies that were, I quote, “better with drugs.”Aside from DVDs and VHS, Video Stop also rented out a HUGE selection of video games for all systems – and they were, for a small town rental place, pretty expedient at keeping up with the times.

Sometimes we’d spend HOURS in Video Stop, or so it seemed. I want this one, my sister wants this one, my friends want this other movie but I’ve seen that and I didn’t like it enough to want to see it again, that one looks stupid, etc. Because that new release we were all kind of planning to get was ‘out’. So now the decision was, what second-rate alternative can we rent instead?

If this sounds familiar to you, I consider you a lucky person for so many reasons.

Kids today don’t know the meaning out “out”. A movie on Netflix will never be ‘out’; a movie on Shaw On Demand will never be “out”; this notion of “out” is defunked, a thing of the past, another factor that feeds into today’s youths’ insistent need on INSTANT gratification, of not being able to comprehend or understand the word ‘out’. The concept of a film being ‘out’ I feel, taught me in adulthood, valuable decision making and problem solving skills. You must choose an alternative; the alternative needs to be something agreed upon by all parties; it’s not your first choice but you’re going to like it or lump it, because you don’t have a choice; you couldn’t conjure that DVD in the generic plastic case concealed behind the actual case on the shelf out of nowhere. It’s gone, amigo. Gone. And you’re left with a backup choice.

Also… even when I was in my first year of university, people were still going out into their neighborhoods and renting movies. It was a social experience; something that was shared by family and friends. There’s something inherently anti-social about sitting at home flipping through movie covers and synopses on your TV or computer screen. The fact remains, as long as it makes our lives “easier” we’re okay with the convenience. But one day, we’ll all be ordering Foodflix and having all our meals delivered instantly to our home so we never go out again to eat. We’re all going to be homebodies living in a little cube-like house because the “convenience” of having what you both need and want right in your home is right there so… why leave?

I feel that at 24 years old, I shouldn’t “feel my age”; but things from even ten years ago — things I had when I was fourteen such as: a Discman, mix tapes, a cordless land line telephone, dialup internet, DOS (yes, I i did have DOS when I was in junior high), Nintendo 64, wraparound headphones — are all gone. Soon they’ll pop up in popculture exhibits at museums. Soon they’ll fetch extremely high prices on ebay. Soon I’ll have to explain to children what a “CD” even is; because a day will come someday soon, when they haven’t the slightest; “A… disc…? That works with a lazer…?”

I remember some time ago, learning about endangered and extinct species in science class and our teacher telling us, “one day, you’ll have to tell your kids what a Panda looked like because it’s possible by the time you’re grown ups, Pandas might be extinct.” This thought kind of scared me; that an animal I had seen and I knew that seemed fairly commonplace might all die out in just a few years. I don’t see Pandas on a daily basis though; but I do see video stores. I remember the experience of renting a movie, I can even remember the stale candy and must smell of Video Stop to this DAY, because it was such a major part of my youth.

In University, I ended up with a major in Film Studies and I remember chalking this academic career plan up to, I loved renting movies. I loved making my weekly or bi-weekly pilgrimage to Video Stop and renting whatever I could find to watch. Some of my favourite movies — Ghost World, Amelie, The Cider House Rules, Spirited Away — were first random rentals from Video Stop that resulted from the big event of going there, walking up the creaky rubber-topped stairs and choosing a movie from the shelf to take home for the night. With Netflix, a very commonplace way to see a movie is now a generational way to see a movie. And it only took a short number of years. Technology makes tragic but curmudgeonly senior citizens of us all; in my day, it wasn’t like that at all.

 

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