Digital Killed The Video Store

Me working at Hastings in 2010

Me working at Hastings in 2010

Well, it's been a while since my last post. I know, I know, you're all sad it took this long. But, fear not, I'm back with something to ramble about. This post is going to be dedicated to the loving memory of the dearly departed video store (R.I.P.). 

I remember it like it was yesterday. When I was a kid, my parents and grandparents would take me to our local video store Hastings and let me roam around for what seemed like an endless amount of time. And yes, there were more than a few instances where I would be hurried because I would take forever. It even got to a point where my parents would refuse to take me unless I already had movie picked out before we went. It was that bad. And I can't say I blame them. I would study the boxes of cover art, the dates the films were made, look at who directed, starred, and produced them. I was a nerd for that shit. I still am. In the town I grew up in, we had a few other video stores around, although none of them were quite as big or as prominent as Hastings was. I would go visit those stores, too. For a few summers, I would even ride my bicycle to one of them over the summer to rent movies. It was a little place called Razorback Video and Tanning. My parents had an account and told the workers I could have the run of the place - a decision they would regret later when I ended up renting "Natural Born Killers". I was 13. We lived in a suburban neighborhood at the time, and I would ride my bike for what seemed like 20 minutes. Just to get to the video store. It didn't matter where I lived, I would always seek out a place to rent movies. When I lived in Waldron for a year, I would rent them from a little hole in the wall joint that was next to a gas station (Let's be honest, that whole town is a hole in the wall), and when I lived in Springdale, I would rent from Blockbuster. 

Now, why would I do that? Why was I that way? I don't know, really. It always seemed like my world opened up whenever I was in a video store. It was like a treasure hunt to find things that looked interesting to me that I would want to see. Looking back, it makes sense that I became a filmmaker. And I owe it all to the video store. This is a place where I learned what my passion and interests were. Here were thousands of stories for me to see and experience. I watched and I studied these films, and I tried to figure out why I either liked some of them or didn't. It opened my world up. 

While in my first couple of years at college, I actually ended up working at a Hastings. For two years, I was "the video guy". Literally. My section was the video department. I would help customers look up titles, I would alphabetize the inventory. I knew where every movie of every genre in the department was. It was a blast. Until it wasn't. I stopped working there in 2010, seven years ago. Even then the store was feeling the sting of the digital boom. Netflix was blowing up, Redbox was more convenient (and cheaper). Slowly, but surely, the sales declined. Back then I gave video stores in general about five more years until they would be all gone. Turns out, I wasn't too far off. 

The days of the video store are long gone. It's sad, but true. All of the the Hastings stores across the country recently shut down last year. I honestly wasn't as sad as I thought I would be. Instead, I saw it as a bittersweet thing. Hastings had become a place I would go to to just kill time and look around. That's because I too bought into Netflix, Amazon, and just digital media in general. It is more convenient, I will give it that. And it doesn't take up any space, unlike my hundreds upon hundreds of DVD's and Blu-Rays (Most of which are packed up in boxes at my brother's place). Seriously, lugging those fuckers around is no easy task. In fact, it becomes a burden after a while. But still, every time I go to Walmart or wherever, I go over to the video section and get the itch to just buy stuff. But then I stop myself and realize I can just get it with Netflix. Don't get me wrong, I still buy DVD's and Blu-Ray's, but only ones that I REALLY want or like. Or maybe ones that have been discontinued. I like the challenge of finding those to own. If they are titles I really want, that is. I'm not just going to buy something just to do it. Although, I used to do that in high school. Seriously, my mom and dad would give me money to go hang out with friends, but I would just use it to go buy movies instead. 

These days, the remaining video stores that are left are mostly independently owned. Most don't even rent titles out anymore, but instead just have them to purchase. Amoeba in California is one, and it's like heaven on Earth. And then, of course, there are other stores across the country. Hell, even in Conway, a company called EntertainMart recently occupied the old Hastings building. It's a video store, yeah, and a pretty damn good one. But, it's just not the same as it was. The feeling is gone. Times have changed and with it so have people and their watching habit. Now video stores are just a niche market. For collectors, of which I consider myself one of. 

The decline in video stores and peoples' interest in them shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. This isn't the first time something like this has happened. Look at drive-in theaters. Those are practically extinct. Sure, you can seek them out and find some, but those are all independently owned now as well (By the way, check out the Kenda Drive-In in Marshall, AR - it's the raddest). It's all a part of our technological evolution. 8 tracks, Cassettes, Floppy Discs, VHS tapes, Laserdiscs, CD's, DVD's, etc.... have all been, or are in the process of being, made a thing of the past. Pretty soon movie theaters will be the same way. They won't entirely go away, but they'll become a niche market like video stores. Hell, as it is, most movies playing in theaters are big budget tent pole films. Everything else seems to get a limited release and then it gets put on VOD.

The feeling is gone. That's what it's come down to. People want convenience and they want their entertainment instantly. I get it. It's like fast food but with entertainment. Instead of having to wait weeks or months to start and finish a show, we can watch one in its entirety on Netflix. But is this exactly a good thing? I have my thoughts on this, and I'm sure you do, too. I'm not going to go into it because it would be extremely long and probably make this post more boring than it already is. The point is, markets go where consumers go, and vice versa, and it's clear that people wanted something different, which led to the decline of the video store and the creation of what we have now. We're all at fault. 

The video store was a major part of my life, as I'm sure it was a part of yours as well (Unless you're Amish). It was a big part of our popular culture. Now when people make movies about people working in video stores, they will probably be considered period pieces of sorts. They are a product of their time. And one day, when I have snot-nosed little kids of my own, they'll ask what a video store is, and I'll probably get sad when trying to explain the concept, because they won't get to know or experience the magic that I and so many others did at those kinds of places. The video store made me the person I am today. It's a part of me. It always will be. Without it, I would have never experienced the various films that taught me so many relatable life lessons. I would have never had endless conversations about films and film directors with like-minded people and friends. It was a place that I was comfortable in. It was a place where I felt like I belonged. And it was a place where I dreamed about my own career as a filmmaker. I will always be grateful to the video store, because through the endless walls of film titles, I found something profound. I found myself. 

That's all I have to say until next time. Till then, stay rad.