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Darwin Shen: Blog

The Demise of the Video Store

Posted on March 1, 2015 with 0 comments

The demise of the video store.

Over the last couple of weeks, one of my favorite haunts has been have a closing sale.  Media Wave in Fairfield is closing its doors.  The owner Paul is someone who I have known for many years and as a matter of fact I knew his uncle who had a HUGE video store in Stamford called Video Hut in Stamford back in the mid 90’s. Video Store?

Its very name is an anachronism.  The area paper did away with the “best” category for the video store?  Why because when was the last time you went to a store and borrowed a VIDEO?

Hell, do you own a VCR?  Do you still have video tapes?  Decaying pieces of archaic technology that gather dust. Usually such things are family keepsakes of past trips or moments.  Most have been transferred onto these little silver discs….have you heard of them?  Those have then been ripped and transferred to the cloud. 

We live in ever changing times.  Technology that once was a benchmark for a generation now lasts at most a couple of years.  WE figured the DVD would last a long time due to its sturdiness only to find that it had been replaced by the Blu-ray….and then to find out that all PHYSICAL media was to go the way of the dinosaur.  Thick about how long the reign of the LP was!

It was not too long ago that video stores popped up everywhere.  There were chains of video stores.  We all can remember Blockbuster.  How about Hollywood video? There were small independents that blossomed into mini chains in a town.  They offered a little more variety than most and were often run by owners who had a genuine love affair with film.  Others had employees who were film nerds or film school wannabes. 

I personally always had a huge collection but sometimes these guys had such encyclopedic knowledge it was truly astounding. But then there were the chain stores. Think of it as your place for the average Joe: nothing special, only those things that the populace wants. 

I actually can’t remember the last time I went to a Blockbuster.  I admit to a strange habit.  I rarely rented movies.  Part of me just liked OWNING the movie and figured that if I rented it, I would forget it and by the time I returned it I would have been better off owning it. 

The way that rentals of VHS worked was that the movie companies would first release movies at a cost of about $89 and then make is so the average consumer would say “hey that’s WAY too expensive, I’m going to rent instead.”  Then after a couple of months of renting the price would come down to about $20 and then it would go into retail mode.  Strange. 

DVD’s came in and were the promise of higher definition and smaller packaging.  IT was great for shelf space compared to VHS so you’d think that video stores loved it.  Of course how to get rid of videotapes and should stores rebuy everything just to keep up with the trend.  The battle for VHS and Betamax (beta what?) is often presented as a problem with format change.  Betamax was slightly higher quality and unfortunately higher price but shorter record time, and VHS was the opposite.  Whenever a change occurs, what do you do?  Well, I wait to see which will win out and go with the victor.  Such was the case with DVD or HDVD.  I can tell you I have bought the movie Amadeus on vhs, then bought it on dvd, then bought it again on DVD when they made a DIRECTOR’S cut that had more scenes, and then again on Blu Ray. 

Well, now there is no place to rent anymore.  They used to have the BEST Video Store in the local paper, but they had to retire the category once there weren’t any video stores left.  Ironically one of the few remaining video stores left is one in Hamden CT called BEST VIDEO.

IF you want to rent a movie you have to get it from one of those Redbox kiosks that cant tell you what you want to know.  They can’t tell you about a movie similar to it or one that you might like.  Netflix offered that online with sophisticated software that then took it a step further and did away with the need of physical media by having on demand.  Binge watching has become a common thing.  Frankly, it could be worse than certain food, drug, and alcohol binges.  Locked in a room with a tv a bag of potato chips and empty cans littered around you?  Perhaps you are in a Breaking Bad marathon, or perhaps you can’t get enough of the Gilmore Girls and the shame you feel has brought you to this place…..blinds drawn, unbathed, unshaved….face or legs.  Yes at least when you had to bring it back to a store you had to look semi decent.

The big mega stores destroyed most of the independents, the on line people destroyed the mega stores and now no video store really can make money.  The biggest irony about this is that if you want to rent some interesting DVD’s you will have to do it for free.  Yes you heard me: FREE. 

The public library becomes the last bastion of the physical media.  Books, magazines, cd’s, books on “tape,”  DVD’s are all free to BORROW at the public library. If you REALLY have a problem with the "FREE" part, just return them late!

But always remember BE KIND – REWIND

 

Media Wave is located at 1596 Post Road in Fairfield.