Throughout my life I've always had a go-to video store. Some were amazing, but even the ones run out of a variety store hold a warm spot in my heart. When I was moving around as a student and in between school, the first thing I'd do once I got all settled into a new place is check out the nearest video stores. The excitement I'd feel as I cruised up and down the video aisles, finding treasures and trash, hasn't really been duplicated in any other form of cinema viewing. I grew up in the age of the video store, and I'd have it no other way.
Most of the quality video stores I'd frequent, usually have knowledgeable staff who I could discuss films I love or hate, and would help me discover many films that would become my favourites. There is a real sense of community in some of these shops, especially those that cater to the niche market of the "film buff", whether it be cult films (my poison), classics or others. Another customer could easily get involved in a conversation you may be having with your "DVD Dealer", and next thing you know there's a group of people talking film and even introducing you to films you might have never seen (this happened to me less than a week ago). I can't tell you the number of times I've asked a counter person, "Seen anything good lately?" and have come home with films that knocked my socks off.
I too was a "counterperson" for years, mostly at video stores that are the Corporate monsters everyone hates. Yet, I remember when Blockbuster first opened in Canada, and I was living in Welland, Ontario (not much of a variety of video stores) and I was thrilled with many of the films they carried that I could never see earlier, since they were either censored in Canada or just unavailable. They had Day of the Dead Unrated! I had only seen the chopped up Canadian version, so when I rented the uncut one this film skyrocketed from being a two and a half star film to a five star film that night. There were all those scenes I'd seen in my Romero book and Fangoria. That tape got rented by all my friends afterwards too, along with Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Man Bites Dog, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eyes Without a Face and many more. Blockbuster may be a heartless, faceless corporation, but I definitely have very fond memories of going through their selection.
Sadly, the video store is dying a slow and cruel death. Where there once was the joy of discovery and the magic of being in a place that was devoted to film, there is now a fairly desolate place with the odd folk coming through to browse the aisles to get a good idea of what to download that night. With video stores closing all over the place, not surprisingly it's the big chains that are pulling the plug first and getting out after pillaging all the smaller video store's customers (isn't it odd how Blockbuster always opened up near another video store? That wasn't a coincidence), it's only a matter of time until they are all gone. Films are disposable now, they hold no importance to a lot of people. It makes sense, when there is so much available (at the click of a button) it's only natural to think of something as common and not at all special. Even film buffs plow through films so fast they don't appreciate them the way they would if there was even a little bit more difficulty in seeing them. With the loss of the video store, we are one step closer to losing film as art.
I'm sure lots of people out there still support the video store, but I'm terrified that most are waiting for 5 years after the final one closes it's doors before they get nostalgic about something they killed.