Back in December, I posted one of my first ever reviews on this site of George Lucas’ classic of nostalgia American Graffiti. This is how I closed my review.
“I can’t think of many teen party movies that were made by such a celebrated and talented filmmaker. Rent it.”
In response, fellow Asshole Jay couldn’t resist leaving one of my favourite comments ever on one of my posts.
“I think “renting it” is your own little piece of nostalgia, Matt. Apart from you, I’m not sure I know anyone who rents movies anymore.”
Apparently she’s right. Truth is, I still do rent movies. Or did. Until Elgin Video announced on Thrusday that it was closing its doors after 25 years in business. I can’t say it came as a surprise. What small business that charges five dollars for a three-day rental could ever hope to compete with a more convenient and less expensive Netflix subscription. Even if every fourteenth rental is free. (Trust me, 14 comes quick when you’re an Asshole). Stores like this have been fighting a losing battle with the internet for years.
The first thing I do when I rent a DVD is assess the damage. Without even thinking, I immediately turn it over to see just how cracked it is and before inserting it into my player, I usually can’t help thinking about where else it’s been. Worse even, who among us hasn’t felt the disappointment that follows the elation of finally having tracked down You Only Live Twice only to have it start skipping just when it’s getting to the good part.
Maybe what comes too easily isn’t fully appreciated. When I was sixteen, I waited months for Supercop to come to video and- when it finally did- my video store (now long gone, barely even making it through the nineties) only had one copy. After weeks of feeling behind empty cases to find nothing there, you’d better believe I relish every kick, stunt, and badly dubbed line of dialogue when I finally went to the store at exactly the right time. I’ll even miss crawling around on my hands and knees because I know From Here To Eternity’s got to be down there somewhere.
When Elgin Video closes at the end of May, there won’t be many- if any- places like it left in Ottawa. It really is a shame. Last month when I discovered that they had Heathers in stock, it was nice to have a friendly staff of fellow cinephiles to share my excitement with. Like the girl behind the counter who, going above and beyond the call of duty, presented me with a list of 25 Movies Based on Young Adult Novels to help me with a particularly challenging Thursday Movie Picks. Or the guy behind the counter who knew more and had seen more than I did (something I rarely encounter and will even less rarely admit). I vowed that one day I would stump him. Now I never will.
I can’t help feeling an end of an era- one that I seem to have clung to longer than most. I’m a resourceful guy and- if I’m in the mood to watch Blood Simple- I’m sure I’ll find a way and may not even have to crawl around on all fours to do it. I’ll love watching the movie’s I love and hate watching the movies I hate as much as ever. It’s just finding them won’t be as fun as it used to be.
I remember the days of crawling on all fours looking for a movie. Sad those places are vanishing, like the movie palaces.
Our video rental shops over the pond are long gone, we wait for the movies we want to come onto sky movies, and any old ones we find on Amazon/eBay for the same price we used to rent them for. Convenience versus community, and convenience won. 😦
There is only Jumbo Video left here, which surprises me quite a bit. There are those Redbox things that you can rent from, but not really the same. There are also a whole pile of corner stores that do it still, though the selection is not the best.
I actually miss renting a lot. Loved the thrill of the hunt.
I can so relate, now I do my hunting on Netflix. Great post! G-uno
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OMG! This post is so wonderful. I felt the same way when the local movie rental store closed it’s doors. They had a huge out of business sale the three months leading up to the closing, and the last week they were selling BRAND NEW DVDS for $1 each. Yeah…I stocked up. This was two years ago. It’s Netflix or bust now…although our local library has an incredible selection of rentals as well, so yay for that!
Very good article. Count me as another who misses the thrill of the hunt. I used to work at and frequent Blockbuster and wrote a similar piece, myself.
Excellent piece, Matt. I know you will truly miss going there. It’s not just a video store, you really made connections there.
I always had a love-hate relationship with those places… because I was born and raised in a small southern town riddled with ignorance, racism, wannabe meatheads, wannabe gangsters… the selection was both bizarre, thin, somewhat funny though considering. Top it off with the premium price for just a few days time… meh.
It sounds like you have good variety with good people who possibly know your taste and know how to best work with you. That can really make all the difference.
I still believe there’s still a niche market for video stores, especially in rural communities, but it’s a huge financial risk that nobody is willing to take. As for me, I still rent once in awhile from Redbox (I refuse to use Netflix! My internet provider won’t handle the streaming and I found the by-mail service to not be worth the cost.), I still do what I suggested to long time customers of the video store I managed, I go out regularly and scour discount bins for DVD and Blu-rays, old VHS tapes at yard sales for pennies on the dollar, and built up an eccentric movie library of my own. I will always prefer physical media.
Aw man, I lived around the corner from Elgin Video when I first moved to Ottawa. The staff were great. I remember asking about a black and white Gregory Peck film that was something to do with a doppelganger or mistaken identity, and she hauls out the giant movie reference book (in the age of the internets!). As a librarian, I REALLY dug that place.
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