We all remember a time when the big question was Beta or VHS? After we answered that question the next question was where do rent videos? In the early to mid eighties video rental stores were appearing all over the place, each having its own charm and a growing number of tapes climbing the wall. What happened to these places and where did all those tapes go?
The first store I remember rented mostly VHS and it had a small section of Beta; you could even rent a VCR if needed. The store had mostly wooden shelves and an endless amount of movie posters on the walls. Cardboard images of Rocky and Darth Vader were residents of this store.
The process was simple, go to the shelf take the box of the video you wanted and bring it to the counter. You also had to present your “video membership card” or give your membership number. The clerk would search the wall of clear plastic cases and give you the movie you wanted. Two simple rules were issued before you left. The tape must be back by tomorrow and you must rewind the tape. Pay your rental fee and you were out the door. What a great place.
As more and more people decided to add the black box that blinked 12:00 to their homes, the local video store was booming. A new phenomenon stared to appear in your local video store. NINTENDO!! The NES section slowly started to take over the sports/live events section in the store. You could also rent the NES console if needed. The Beta section slowly disappeared and the Science Fiction section grew larger. If you really enjoyed a movie you could purchase it new for about sixty dollars from a catalog!!! Movie t-shirts, bags of microwave popcorn, cotton candy and gumball machines were now fixtures in the store.
After a good five to six year run “previously viewed” tapes stared to appear for sale. The Nintendo section grew smaller and the Sega/Super Nintendo started to grow larger. Now an expanded section called “New Releases” started to line the outside walls. Changes were happening to the local video store but I really didn’t think too much at the time because I was a kid and I was searching for a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3.
One day a commercial came on TV for “Major Video” a giant video rental chain store. What was Major Video? That was that big building being built in the center of the new strip mall. This place was huge, about three times the size of the local store and they seemed to have everything available. Naturally people stated to show up at the big video store. Sadly after eight years the first local video store closed its doors to become a hair salon. Four years later smaller video rental stores closed and another Major Video was built. Major Video was then replaced by Blockbuster and all but one local rental store remained.
This past February I noticed a sign in the window of the last local store that said “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS…ALL TAPES MUST GO!!” It was sad to see but I wasn’t surprised. This place had a massive amount of VHS tapes and a small section of DVD for sale. Over twenty years of VHS were on sale in this building. As I was looking at the VHS tapes I noticed something I had never seen before. The shiny silver stickers attached to the VHS tapes carried the names of previous video stores that closed in the area, this store acquired the inventory of three other stores. I purchased many VHS tapes over the past month from that store. I got a copy of Superman 3 with a sticker from the first video store my parents joined back in the day. Most tapes from other small stores are for sale by the dozen in cardboard boxes at the local flea market. I was sad to see this store close and now the only one remaining is the big national chain store.
The small video stores were great back in the day; the larger stores just don’t have the same feel. Every kid in my class loved visiting the local video store, so many great memories. I see mom and pop stores still exist in other areas but I wonder how long they will be around? VHS might go away but the rental places filled with these tapes will last in our memories.