Our first VCR was a behemoth of a machine. It was a top loading silver monster with buttons the size of dinner plates. The year was 1983, and all over the world budding cinephiles’ lives were being changed forever. My true love for movies was born that day my father unwrapped the box. The family now had their own personal movie theater. Not only could I watch Star Wars a million times, I had tentative access to movies I never could have hoped to see in the theater cause of my age. The VCR was a doorway to a whole new world.
The video store was the new candy store. I loved the experience of walking the aisles as a kid, surveying the boxes with their covers alluding to forbidden worlds of sex and violence. B movies always had the best artwork, from atrocious slasher films to ridiculous teen comedies. The shelves were loaded with monsters, UFOs, freaks, geeks and heroes.
As I grew older, my friends and I bonded over our shared viewing experiences. We watched everything and anything from the classics to underground cult movies. We craved the weird and the unusual. Foreign films slowly seeped into our viewing stratosphere and the world opened up again. Movies were the go to viewing entertainment. TV in the eighties was its own brand of fantastic, but it couldn’t compare to the silver screen.
When I went away for university I ended up in a town with a brilliant video store. You could always judge the caliber of a video store by the number of its rare and obscure movies and this one outdid itself. You could spend hours looking through walls of forgotten gems, discussing the choices with the staff, friends and complete strangers who you knew shared your passion. A good independent video store was a meeting place for informed, engaging people and I miss them.
Our beloved meeting spots are slowly disappearing, but there are still a few out there keeping the spirit alive, and that is why this Saturday is the 3rd annual Independent Video Store Day. So this weekend, instead of cueing up Netflix try your local Star Video and see what they recommend, those guys know movies.
I even miss Blockbuster. Sure they mainly catered to all the new releases but it was still fun to walk by an entire wall of something. One of my favourite memories of the failed franchise was the scene right before the store around the corner from my house closed its doors for the last time. Everything in the store had been picked clean except one rack right up at the front. It was full from top to bottom with only two titles: Robsessed and Justin Bieber: Never say Never. It was a kind of beautiful nail in an unfortunate coffin.