The best things about video stores

Continuing from iMic’s Blockbuster post from the New purchases thread!:

I thought it might be fun for us oldies to reminisce about the good old days of video shops, and the best things about them that still can’t be beaten.

I really miss the range of old movies from the 20s - 40s. You can’t stream the majority of them, and they’re hard to find to buy. I signed up to FilmStruck to watch a lot of them, but it got shut down, and as of right now the criterion collection is without a home, so I’m out of luck.

What do you miss most?

Not what I miss the most, but certainly one of the more poignant memories I have.

My local used to have this playing on all the preview TVs when Dad and I would go there on Friday nights/weekends.

AAnd that other one about piracy where even if you fast forwarded it it was slow

If I was near that store I’d be after their Disc Wizard (I think that’s what they’re called) that has the sandpaper/buffing. I regret not buying the one at the Video Ezy that closed near me years ago.

From that Video Ezy though I did get the ‘demo DVD’ that plays the latest releases on loop.

What I miss about those stores though was the community side of it I guess, there was a social aspect to getting your movies/TV series.

It was also a sense of Occassion. Back in the day you usually stuck with the movies you rented. Now if you get 20 minutes in and you think the movie is crap you generally turn it off but back in those days you thought no, I wasted my time getting this I’ll watch it till the end. And complained about it!

I also loved the odd quirky movies and TV series you could find at a video store. They’re generally harder to find these days. I remember how packed the video stores used to be on a Friday night. A shame really.


A whole other aspect that streaming content is killing off…

I haven’t used a video store since about 2004… prior to broadband, basically… but I used to have a keyring full of membership cards. Video 2000 up in Darwin was my favourite store/s… but they used to come and go.

I rarely ventured out of Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Action… but without a doubt it was thanks to the Video Store (and - I’m talking VHS) that I discovered a lot of amazing flicks and shows… not least The Quiet Earth… It was always just a question of how far the couple $$ from mum would stretch each visit.

I’m heartbroken, folks.

Five consecutive nights I’ve spent in that video shop, wanting to savour the sights and sounds one last time. I’d purchase everything in there and save it if I could. But it wouldn’t be the same.

Because it’s the shared experiences that made them so special. Together we experienced the sights, the sounds, the smells and the overwhelming sea of colour lining the aisles. We picked out our movies together, bought our snacks, and prepared for an exciting night ahead. When we couldn’t decide, the staff, often film enthusiasts themselves, would always have sound recommendations to suit anyone’s tastes. The recommendations weren’t generated by a computer algorithm. They came from feedback, from our peers, our community, and our friends.

I’d visit a video shop to rent a movie for the same reason I’d choose to dine out instead of ordering in, go to a concert instead of listening to the album, or go for a late night drive instead of calling an Uber. Because it put me physically in the centre of that sensory experience. The light, the sound, the smell, the colour, and the interaction with others. The people, the camaraderie. That’s something that can’t be streamed.

These shops weren’t solely a business. They were an extension of the people behind the counter, their passion for movies and their efforts to keep the movie night experience alive. I spoke with the owner of my local store tonight. 30 years in the business. The store was financially unsustainable three years ago, but they tried everything to keep it alive and buy a little more time out of it. Nobody there wanted to let it go.

That’s the difficult part. Businesses come and go all the time. It’s when you come to know the names and faces behind them, their intentions genuine and their efforts valiant, and the positive impact they had on your life, that it becomes much, much harder to say goodbye. And looking back on happier times, remembering what we’re all about to lose, it’s hard to come to terms with the idea that those experiences are now in the past.

Kent’s been in business since they started phasing out Betamax; his first store was a Movie World, not a Blockbuster. He bought into the business at a time when there were 12 stores competing within a three-kilometre radius and now he’s the last standing.

Kent has no plans to close. His customer base is growing, with people coming from further away than ever to search his shelves. His store has a greater section of foreign movies which gives him a niche and Kent does all the buying personally. When someone discovers an actor and is keen to devour their filmography, he’s happy to oblige.

Some of my fondest memories as a kid were renting Nintendo 64 games on a Friday night from Civic Video. When I became older, started my first job, and moved to a new part of town, my friends and I would get together and rent movies from Blockbuster Firle every weekend. It made that difficult transition easier, and made my new surroundings feel like home.

I’m really, really going to miss them.


Hamilton, Victoria: The original stores have closed but we had a new one open a year or two back. Seems to do very well.

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I wonder who their average client is these days.

I could easily imagine people my father’s generation (72yo) still using video stores, as streaming is quite a foreign concept.

As noted above however, streaming doesn’t cover everything.

I remember discovering with great joy that the large video store in Bendigo (gone now) had every Star Trek original, next Gen an DS9 episode available for viewing. I had tried over the years to watch all the episodes on free to air TV but there were a surprising number I had missed.

It was always a special treat to discover one I had not seen and I felt quite some regret when I eventually watched the last DS9.

I liked how you could also rent video games. These days we barely get demos and have to rely on Twitch to tell if it’s worth a buy.


You know what’s awesome? Those console rental cases. I’ve been after an N64 one myself

The universe just threw something at me…

I just moved a box, and a fridge magnet fell out.

[insert image of Video Ezy Nightcliff fridge magnet tomorrow]

Never even lived in that suburb - but it’s not like Darwin is a big place.

According to the NT News, they shut up shop… not sure when… (need a subscription to read the full article…)

Nightcliff Video Ezy shuts up shop

BROWSING rows of DVDs in a movie store is quickly becoming­ a rarity for Territorians in the Top End, with the closure of the last Video Ezy store in Nightcliff.Although the shopfront was Darwin’s last movie store, film fanatics will still be able to hire

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Small world. One of my best mates used to work at Nightcliff Video Ezy in the early to mid 00s. Used to get free DVD rentals.

I thought about this post, and decided to follow your recommendation. I purchased their Venmill Industries VMI 3500a commercial buffer.

This machine is worn out, disassembled and non-functioning. It was mainly a spare parts unit for their other, serviceable buffers. But it came with replacement buffing wheels and some anti-static polishing solution. $10 for the machine, as-is with consumables included.

The problem turned out to be a rear inhibitor switch that detects when the back cover is removed. Since this machine is missing the back and side covers, there’s no need for the inhibitor switch at all, and bypassing the switch fixed it. (Some operators run these machines open to improve airflow and heat extraction anyway.)

It needs a decent cleaning, some scratches buffed out (I’m aware, there’s a joke there), the polishing wheels replaced, a replacement cleaning disc and it should be set. The consumables for this machine are fairly expensive, so I haven’t decided whether to only use it infrequently, or start offering a disc repair service to offset its running costs.

Nice one, whether or not you decide to offer a repair service I think it was worth it. For me if I had one of those I wouldn’t use it except once in a blue moon. But it would be comforting to know if I come across some old CD’s/DVD’s that need a clean/repair that I’m equipped

Part 2. “Bringing Blockbuster Home.”

A Blockbuster / Movieland display cabinet. Needed a truck to deliver it. The DVD collection stands at around 225 at last count, around two-thirds of which are Blockbuster ex-rental.

Some stickers as well.

I’m thinking of using it as infrequently as possible, but still keeping it available for friends and family, and maybe the occasional public service to throw some extra cash into the jar for its maintenance and upkeep. But otherwise I don’t intend to work it too hard.

I stopped by the shop again yesterday, and we managed to find the side panels for it. They’re a bit bent and a little rusty in one corner, but still repairable with a little work. They found another 4 bottles of the AC Liquid as well, which he gave to me for free, but considering this stuff isn’t cheap, I’d still like to take them something to say thanks.

The machine itself is running, but it needs some work. Starting with a decent clean and grease of the mechanics, some adjustments and replacing the consumables, then I’ll see how it goes from there.


I will always have fond memories of VCRs, videos and video stores in the 80s and to a lesser extent, the 90s. These days though, I would prefer to have nothing to do with physical media.

Another couple of finds. The “Carl and Ray” poster has some damage, some touch-up repairs should take care of that, then maybe I’ll consider putting it under glass or laminate it.

The ticket sign is made of polycarbonate with a vinyl overlay. I haven’t decided what to do with it yet, but I was looking for one, so I’m thrilled to have it.

One more week of trading, then it’s all over. I’ll undoubtedly make a few more trips before then.

Physical media has its drawbacks. Space and reliability, mainly. The collection takes up a decent amount of space, and sometimes the discs skip or freeze in the player if they’re worn out. I’m sure the player itself could use a service too.

I understand the appeal behind digital storage and on-demand playback. Most of my favourite movies and TV series are stored on hard disks, archived from the DVD or Blu-Ray sources (for 720 / 1080 copies). But I still maintain physical copies of them. Same for games, albeit older ones mainly, like Nintendo 64 cartridges. I find it enjoyable for some reason.

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Despite having both digital and DVD copies, it took me many many years to reach the point that I could bear to pass on my Doctor Who VHS collection. (It did after all take about 20 years to collect!) And even then - I still kept a handful of tapes, either for logistical reasons (they had features missing from other media) or pure sentiment.

Physical media of course has a more tangible aspect to it, which adds an extra layer to the experience. It’s not just the viewing experience that you get to enjoy.