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.