Posts Tagged ‘vhs

08
Jun
08

Ode to Days of Video Rental Past

Watching everything change suddenly (although this stuff was coming) I wanted to take a moment and reflect on what it was like growing up with video stores for those who can remember, and those who will probably never know. Here we go:

 

I lived in a small town outside a larger city (that city being Louisville). It was more of a suburban town that some envisioned rural existence that we all allude to, but it was pretty close to that, too. I remember the small video store we had in a small strip mall. In the days when Blockbuster wasn’t in the small towns chains like Roadrunner Video existed and they were nothing more than white walls with scattered videos, and an occasional poster adding a sense of decoration to the place. A constant was the New Release wall, which was consistently rented out.

 

Once you went to rent something, the cashier/clerk pulled out a “card catalog” that had your name somewhere in it. You presented your laminated card, paid your money, and had the movie returned in the next day or two or late fees would accrue (part of the reason for your name on the index card I think). And the card was not digitized; basically, the name of the video store, your signature, and it was laminated.

 

As for getting new releases, good luck. I remember when “Back to the Future 3” came out on video. I had to wait a week before there was a copy available. For whatever reasons “new releases” were limited. Some people waited a month before even considering renting something new.

 

Another service of the video stores was the rental of VCRs. If you couldn’t afford a VCR, or you were going on a trip, you could always pop down to the video store and see if they had any VCRs to rent with the movies you wanted to watch.

 

Should you have lost or misplaced the movie you rented, you were pretty much screwed. Video stores charged at least $99 for a replacement of the movie you lost.

 

By the late Nineties, I worked as a CSR for Hollywood Video. DVD’s were just beginning, so there was still a gigantic amount of VHS tapes. People dropped off their tapes and we’d put three at a time into the videocassette rewinders. We refused to rent to someone whose late fees were enormous.

 

There used to be “screener” copies of movies. Basically, we would get the “screener” copy about a month or two before it came out on video and we rented them from management with the 1-2 day return policy. Any time you watched these, the words “Screener copy -not for sale etc.” appeared on the bottom about every few minutes while you were watching the movie. The Heads of the company did this so when someone came in asking how the movie was, we would be able to tell them. Now, I think they either lie or just say, “I don’t know.” Something HV instituted was the fact that employees could not rent New Releases during their first two weeks. Unless we saw the screener, we either lied or simply stated that we didn’t know.

 

And, people will rent anything. ANYTHING. If you had a movie of Pierce Brosnan sitting on a park bench next to a flaming bag of dog crap, people would watch it (now, they would put it on YouTube and forward it to their friends). Where else but the video market can you find a movie where Burt Reynolds and Ice-T starred together? If at any time you wondered where such-and-such actor went, go to the video store; they’re still working.

 

The first month or so working at the store was pretty cool. I would go to work at six and be home sometime around 1 or 2 in the morning. Waking up around noon I would pop in a movie then kill some time before going back to work; it was a great way to catch up on stuff I had never seen.

 

Speaking of watching stuff outside of work, while at work we had to put on G/PG fare. I can tell you that I’ve heard “Mulan” about a million times, but have never watched more than thirty seconds. True story. One night I put in a “Best of the Muppet Show,” and all of us died laughing when we watched Viking Muppets torch and pillage a village, all to the tune of “In the Navy.”

 

And yes, we had our share of theft. The worst occurred when the movie “Virus” came out. We had a lot of copies walk out. Our thought was: if you’re going to steal a movie, why not steal a GOOD one?

 

Just a trip down video lane,

-Chas

 

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20
May
08

New to the Endangered Species List: The Video Rental Store Guy

There is a species among man that has now found itself among the endangered; souls who find themselves with the likes of the Arakan Forest Turtle and the Javan Rhino. Where once they could be found nearly anywhere in captivity they’re reserves are now scattered, their laborious domiciles eyesores verging on dilapidation. This species goes by the description “Video repono pensio alio;” the Video Rental Store Guy.

 

This species was first discovered in the late 1970’s, when electronics began to arrive in the family home. At the time the species was divided between two groups: the Beta tapes, and the Videocassettes. As the pornographic industry gave Videocassettes their approval, Beta tapes found themselves being phased-out and their “rental assistants” found themselves cohabitating with the VHS to continue their survival. The advent of the Laserdisc showed no change to the cause of the Video Rental Store Guy, nor any significant change to the Video Rental Store Retailer.

 

The Retailers came, went, changed, and merged; whether it was Roadrunner, West Coast Video, Red Giraffe, Blockbuster, Family Circus, or any number of franchise or local-based stores, the Video Rental Store Guy adapted to the changes and environments. As a nation went forth into the Nineteen-Nineties, the VRSG looked forward to a bright and shining future; he was standing on the peak of Home Video Entertainment.

 

Little did he know that two things would change the face of home entertainment forever.

 

In the mid-Nineties the computing world introduced its inter-network, called the World Wide Web, to the culture en masse. While a few made note and slowly it gained acceptance, the VSRG only saw it as computers connecting to other computers; there wasn’t any harm to be seen. People were still renting VCR’s to watch their movies, and on occasion someone WOULD buy a popcorn, soda, and candy combo.

 

Around the same time came the release of the Digital Versatile Disc (DVD). DVD’s were lighter, cheaper, and held more information than a standard VHS tape. They also came with the functionality of the Laserdisc but again, they were smaller. The changeover from VHS to DVD was slow as human culture was not sure about embracing this new technology. In fact it wasn’t until the motion picture, “The Matrix,” that DVD gained acceptance into home entertainment.

 

Unbeknownst to the VSRG, DVD and the WWW (or Internet) would soon be married in the form of online renting through several services, the least of which is called Netflix. Netflix operated by offering a catalog of movies difficult to find in some areas and stores, and the ability for the renters to receive rentals through mail. Retailers were quick to counter the movement, offering packages whereby renters could pay a monthly sum to rent movies through the mail and return them to a store, where they would have in-store credit and be able to choose among that retailer’s selection.

 

The Internet led to more developments: computers having DVD burners and peer-to-peer software that allowed for individuals to copy movies and distribute them to friends. Netflix allowed for “recommendations” based on a person’s movie “queue.” The biggest change was that now the common person didn’t have to drive to a store to get a movie or drop on off, they no longer had to deal with late fees, and they didn’t have to spend the extra money for a combo.

 

Now the VSRG finds himself having to hock combos just to stay in the business. The people are staying at home; no one needs his suggestions. The Retailers are closing their stores and/or merging them, and the Video Store Rental Guy is doing everything he can to keep his job. As he stands looking across a vast landscape that was once rife with videotapes, he sheds a tear.