Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve At The Video Store!

I used to rush down there as early as possible for the Christmas Eve deal. It was 4 discs for £5, and you could keep them for 3 nights. The big titles would go first. And then the Christmas classics were gone. You'd scramble around for the perfect films to fit your mood. 

The place was rammed. The best part was the conversations, the banter. It was the place to be. 

They knew me from when I was a kid, so I got preferential treatment. They'd keep videos behind for me, let me take extra ones. It was about community back when things were about community. That was always  why people loved the video store. You could get away from your parents or your wife or your kids and go into a place where what mattered was THE MOVIES.

And it was right at the end of your road. Seems crazy now; to think that you could just walk down the street and then spend two hours talking to someone about Al Pacino or Jack Lemmon or Jean-Luc Godard. 

I was desperate for a job there. I begged and begged. 

And then one day it happened. 

Tuesday nights were my domain. And this was after video stores were dead. My nights were the only profitable ones. Not by a big margin, but enough. I recommended the right blockbusters to the blockbuster crowd and the best alternative films to those who were looking to see something unique. But it was dying and gone and by this time we were all looking towards the internet, DVD rentals and everything else. 

People think it's all about technology but it isn't, it's about people. Sure, the Kindle will take over everything but there's nothing magical about passing books electronically through the generations. It's the actual physical books that hold magic. The video store was about the community. That's why our store lived as long as it did, people went there to connect, to speak to someone who valued the cinema over whatever junk was on TV. No-one got kicked out, no-one was forced to buy. We were genuinely happy just to chat. 

I guess that's why the video stores died. They refused to change. Very rarely did you find a business savvy independent video store, they were too invested in the people. Video stores were the coffee houses of the 80's and 90's. The difference being the drinks were films, not coffee beans; and the staff actually remembered your name. 

I wasn't working on Christmas eve; but I went down there and did it for free anyway. And even though the business model was dead, its future gone; we rocked it on Christmas eve. Everyone in town and further out knew about it. 

Sometimes, for the briefest of moments, you're able to convince yourself that magic can live forever. But it can't. You gotta hold onto it when it happens because before long everyone has changed and the thing you love about it is gone. The video store is something that our children will never know about. There'll be new ways of experiencing things, but even those will change. I was just getting used to the thrill of discs dropping onto my doormat, and now they want me to stream everything. Technically things are improving, but I miss the people. Sometimes we'd stand there for three hours, amongst the DVDs, drinking tea and talking about life and movies and whatever else. 

And now it's a Chinese takeaway place. 

That thing we loved is gone and exists only in our memories. 

Care to share?


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  2. Happy Christmas Kid and Paul S. I used to work in a video shop between '89 & 91 in East London. It was one of my favourite jobs and I took great pleasure in keeping back new releases for regulars I knew would enjoy them. I still remember the numbers that equated to the different films (Dead Pool 1893) and how excited people would be when a new release came in. Good times.

  3. great post. i still remember my video store. well actually both video stores in my area. but only one of them was my 'preferred one' and was the definite first call. having to go to the other one (less friendly and further afield) was such a drag, but a necessity if a particular release was out in the first. now it's just a couple clicks away. and im not sure if that's totally a good thing afterall...

    'The video store is something that our children will never know about.'
    This is also true about the old school camera film, you know the one that'd come in the little grey boxes. it's sad, cos the thrill of getting the pics developed from the shop was a real special moment.

    Before I go, that 'Last Film Watched' bit on the left hand column is a fantastic idea! I'd never noticed it before :)

    Have a great xmas!

  4. It's a little sad how those meeting places are going out through the window. It's the same thing with book stores. But I suppose this only strengthens our mission to create those meeting spots where you can hang out and talk about your hobby online instead. We don't meet in the videostore. We meet at Kid in the Front Row.

    Oh and besides: streaming or not - I still think that movies are best seen in theatres. Not at home. Technology may develop infinitely but there's nothing that can replace the magic that only exists in the cinema.