I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
February 4, 2011
>This column originally appeared in the Nashville Scene.
Requiem for a Video Store
In retrospect, I should have known when Movie Gallery closed that it was the beginning of the end.
For better or worse, the Movie Gallery on Highway 70 was one of Bellevue’s main social hubs. On weekend nights, you’d find it filled with neighbors chatting in the aisles, small children made maniacal by the images of SpongeBob, Strawberry Shortcake and Scooby-Doo on the shelves, teenagers hand-in-hand in the horror section looking for anything that would provide an excuse to snuggle, and single men trying to make it in and out of the “Adults Only” section unnoticed.
Movie Gallery may have been a chain, but it had the feel of an independently owned video store. The employees were die-hard film buffs, eager to pontificate on Robert Altman’s directorial style or the best Japanese cult horror movies. When it closed a few years ago, Bellevue was forced into a DVD rental divide, with some retreating to the Blockbuster across the street, and the others taking their business to Hollywood Video on Highway 100.
We were part of the exodus to Hollywood Video. It wasn’t nearly as quirky and convivial as Movie Gallery had been, but the employees were affable and never complained when my children occasionally knocked over some promotional cardboard cutout. Things got murky, though, when we discovered Netflix. For a while we abandoned actual movie stores altogether, finding joy instead in building our online queue and eagerly awaiting the arrival of the little red envelopes in our mailbox. Over time, however, the novelty wore off. We canceled our subscription and began haunting Hollywood Video once again, hoping no one had noticed our traitorous absence. But as it turned out, we were hardly the only ones heeding the siren call of the mail-order DVD and the digital download. A few months later, Hollywood Video closed up shop.
And that left Blockbuster, the bottom of the movie rental barrel. A new subscription to AT&T U-Verse and the handy RedBox machine down the street kept us out of the place more often than not — but we still relied on the store for older releases, not to mention its 99-cent children’s rentals that brought me back from the brink of nervous breakdown on more than one snow day.
When I took the kids to Blockbuster a few weeks ago, though, I could tell something was up. The employees had the hangdog look of dead men walking, and the store seemed dirty and disorganized. Sure enough, a few days later, the signs were posted. The Bellevue Blockbuster was going out of business.
And just like that, video stores have become obsolete. Sure, a few of them are still clinging to life around town, but I doubt they’ll be open too much longer.
It’s strange now to think that my kids probably won’t even remember what it was like to visit a video store. It will be as much of a foreign concept in their minds as the cassette tape, the rotary phone and the newspaper classified ads.
They’ll never feel the excitement of seeing rows and rows of actual movies just waiting to be rented. They won’t know the disappointment of finding that the new release they’ve been dying to see is completely checked out. They won’t get to snicker with everyone else in line when the rental guy loudly tells old Mr. Thomason that Big-Busted Babes is due back on Wednesday. They won’t be offered rental protection and shown a warped VHS tape as proof of what can happen if they leave their rental on their car’s dashboard. They won’t rack up late fees. They won’t know the frustration of getting an hour-and-a-half into a movie only to discover that a single scratch on the DVD renders the remaining 30 minutes unwatchable.
On second thought, maybe the demise of the video store isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Or at least, it won’t be once technology manages to bridge the gap. I have no doubt that we’ll all eventually be able to stream any movie rental we want to our televisions without ever having to leave home. But we’re not there yet. You can easily stream most recent releases, but don’t even think of accessing older films like Shine, Fresh or A Place in the Sun. They’re not available. Despite this, Netflix is already moving to abandon its mail-order DVD service altogether; It recently deleted the “Add DVD to queue” option from subscribers’ streaming devices.
As for me, I’ve only now realized I’m going to miss the video rental store. I’m going to miss running into my friends in the aisles and I’m going to miss watching the glee on my children’s faces as they choose from a candy store-like collection of kids films, and I’m going to really miss having same-day access to movies like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Cool Hand Luke.
Farewell, video store. I didn’t know how much I loved you until it was too late.
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My friend was one of the smarter video store owners in town. About 2 years before all the other stores started shutting their doors, he sold his business. I had been watching streaming movies a lot more at the time, and talked with him a lot about the situation. I felt really sorry for the new owners when they shut their doors after only 1 year, after spending 70,000 to buy his store.