Video Store Memories

As a kid I always loved going to the video store to rent movies.  The first thing I always did was run to the wrestling section to see if they had any new wrestling videos and then wander around the various sections looking at the cover boxes trying to find the right movie.  Sometimes the biggest hurdle was figuring out if a movie was available or not because Maine was full of mom and pop style rental places who displayed their stock differently.  

Because of the cost of a rental copy back in the early to mid 1980’s a lot of stores kept the VHS’s behind the counter to deter theft.  Some stores you would take the coverbox off the shelf and bring it to the counter to retrieve your rental so you’d spend a lot of time asking the clerk if they carried a certain title to which they would say yes but it’s check out.

Other times a round metal tab with a number on it would hang from a nail below the coverbox, you would take the tab up to the counter to retrieve your rental.  This made things a bit easier as you could tell if they carried the movie or not, just that no tab meant it was unavailable.

Later on some places would have a plastic case around the cover box with the tape inside which you would take to the clerk to rent the movie and that is what you brought home.  You would squeeze the bottom of the case on both side to “open” the bottom so the tape could slide out.

Squeeze Case

Finally, how it was when I worked at Movie Gallery and pretty much the standard for most places by the mid 1990’s was behind the coverbox on the shelf was the rental copy in a black plastic case.

We could spend an hour or better walking around the new release wall, grabbing the hot new movies and then trying to decide what else looked good to round out the four pack, because it was the best rental price.

There were some rules when it came to renting movies, a new release with less than two copies typically meant the movie was foreign film, a knockbuster or a dud.  Also always stay away from the shiny glitter box, I fell for this ploy a few times myself.  You could have just called them shitty glitter box because that was the type of movie you were in store for if you brought one of them home with you.  

Shiny glitter box and knockbuster, in person you can really see how it reflecks

Think about it, you’ve been looking for a long time for one last movie, this cover box reflexing off the fluorescent lighting keeps catching your eye and the more you pick it up and read it the more interesting it might be.  Wrong!  Sadly there is no way to determine this now when scrolling though Netflix.

What’s that?  What’s a knockbuster, why I’m glad you asked.  It’s when a major studio releases a film, like Twister, and another studio releases a film of similar theme like Tornado relatively close to one another.  Other examples of this include Dante’s Peak and Volcano, Armadeggon and Deep Impact, Olympus has Fallen and White House Down, the list goes on and on.

Twister was the big budget, Tornado was knockbuster, but it starred Bruce Campbell so it gets top billing from me.

When I was a kid though, there was nothing more depressing than finally deciding on your rentals and discovering they had no VCR’s available for rental.  That’s right, my Dad didn’t own one so we always had to rent one.  Finally he wised up and would call first to reserve VCR until he eventually bought one.

It saddens me that my kids will never experience what it was like to experience the joy and wandering around a video store.  I mean yeah we have Redbox and with on-demand and streaming they never run out of rental copies, but it’s just not the same.

Next time I’ll talk about my all time favorite job; the 18 Months I worked at Movie Gallery.


Later Readers!

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