Remembering Home Video, Long Live Videodrome!

Without a doubt, growing up in the middle of the home video boom of the 80s made me the film lover that I am today.  The experience of walking up an down the aisles of the local mom & pop video rental store, examining each and every VHS box for exciting cover art and my favorite stars, and having unrestricted access to thousands of movies was sort of mind-blowing for a 10 year-old.  Renting videos became a weekly ritual from the time my parents lent me their membership card when I was a pre-teen, through high school when I hit up my local Home Video with friends, up until I first moved out with my girlfriend (now my wife) back in 2001.  It wasn’t uncommon for me to pick out five or six movies at a time, spending entire weekends gorging myself on cheesy horror, ridiculously low-budget science fiction, and overly pretentious indie flicks.  Making the switch to a service like Netflix over a decade ago was a blessing and has opened me up to many more films than were ever available at my local video store, but at the same time there’s a part of me that dearly misses the experience of walking those aisles and finding hidden gems on the shelves.

Living in the suburbs just outside of Atlanta, there aren’t all that many video rental store options.  Not only are the mom & pop shops of my youth long gone, but there aren’t even that many Blockbusters hanging on either.  During the 90s my cinematic haven was a store called Home Video in Duluth, GA.  Located in a two-story stand alone building on a hill behind Gwinnett Place Mall, Home Video was unlike any other rental place I’d come across before or since, not only because there were two full floors of videos, but because they had a much more relaxed stance on renting.  There were two tiers of rentals, the new releases and the catalog titles.  Though all the new releases were only available for a two-day rental period and cost $4 each, the catalog titles were all available for a 5-day window and were only $2.  The store was also pretty cool about giving away any one-sheet posters or cardboard displays they were done with, so they single-handedly helped me decorate my first couple of apartments.  Sadly, Home Video shuttered its doors sometime around the year 2000 deciding not to make the jump from VHS to DVD in the rental market.  The store closing did give me the opportunity to acquire some (at the time) out-of-print videos, namely The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and The Monster Squad, but it was still a really depressing time to be a film nerd in Duluth.  Sadly, all I have left to remember Home Video is the building where an Enterprise car rental now exists (which of course is the only one I now use…)

I was unaware of it at the time, but just 30 miles south in the Little 5 section of Atlanta another video rental place was just establishing itself.  Opened by Matt Booth in 1998, the aptly named Videodrome is a haven for cult films specializing in off-center, artsy, foreign and otherwise eclectic genre fare.  Not only is there a ton of documentaries, indie dramas, horror, sleaze, kung fu, science fiction, and fantasy, but they also carry hard to find flicks whether it’s MOD Warner Archive titles, Criterion, VHS, or even bootleg copies.  Bottom line, they want you to be able to experience awesome movies as conveniently as possible.

They’ve also side-stepped the standard organizational scheme and have sub-genres separated out into their own sections like Film Noir, Asian Sex & Splatter, and an entire room dedicated to groupings by director (Cronenberg, Hill, Lynch, Tarantino, Coppola, you name it.)  I’ve only been by a couple of times since I found this place (it’s a little jaunt for simply renting movies), but I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll end up browsing the shelves for at least an hour every visit.  I’m pretty sure there’s no where else in Atlanta I can go in and rent the 1988 Cyndi Lauper psychic comedy Vibes and the 1973 female samurai flick Sex & Fury starring Reiko Ike and Christina Lindberg.  Heck, even Netflix only has one of these.

  • Bob Johns

    Great post miss the Video store days!

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/paxtonholley Paxton Holley

    LOL, I can’t believe you totally name dropped Vibes. That’s awesome.

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      Any chance to bring up Cyndi Lauper…

      • http://www.shezcrafti.com/ ShezCrafti

        It’s good enough…

        • http://twitter.com/paxtonholley Paxton Holley

          For me. YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH!!!!

      • http://www.shezcrafti.com/ ShezCrafti

        Aaaaaaaaaaaaand now I am rocking out to Change of Heart.

        • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

          Have you guys heard any of her pre solo Blue Angel stuff? Kind of 50sish, but fun…

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MBijekSzDQ

          • http://www.shezcrafti.com/ ShezCrafti

            Yeah, she has a great voice for this style. But I’ll always be a fan of her 80′s pop first and foremost.

  • http://tophatsasquatch.com/ Tommy Day

    I get so nostalgic about stuff like this too. When I was in elementary school, there was the little video store right next to my school called Video Barn. You walked in and the walls were covered with that brown peg board, the VHS tapes were hanging up with little round tags under them. I don’t know how many times I went over there after school to get the latest Sega game or pick out some obscure movie because I thought the cover art was cool-looking.

    It’s weird thinking that my (future) kids will never have an experience like that.

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      You know, I’m surprised that Netflix hasn’t attempted to digitally recreate that experience, especially with their game console and tablet apps. Sort of how iBook has the “shelves”.

      Cover art browsing was my favorite past time, and one of the reasons that I’ll always love cheesy 70s & 80s horror and sci-fi movies…

      • http://tophatsasquatch.com/ Tommy Day

        I bet some enterprising geek could use Netflix’s API to create something like that. That would be awesome.

        • http://www.shezcrafti.com/ ShezCrafti

          Netflix should do it themselves! Maybe offer it as an interface skin option or something. In fact, they could be doing a lot more to cater to us cult film geeks of the home video generation. I recently lamented to Pax there are zero Cynthia Roth Rock films on Netflix. So sad.

  • DUSTINDUSTRIES

    The old trip to the video store, staring at cover art, doing laps, 5 weeklys for $10, late fees, hiring Sega cartidges. I would have missed it for an Iphone. Not sure if you have already seen this, if you not you gots to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TrPwOrf4sM

    • http://www.shezcrafti.com/ ShezCrafti

      Bwahahahaha!

  • DUSTINDUSTRIES

    sorry I wouldn`t have missed it for an Iphone, We have these vending machines here in Australia called Oovie or Hoyts mobile Kiosk that you can rent DVDs from usually located just outside the supermarket. It`s like a Lime green coke machine. I usually stop and stare at the small cover art squares but I don`t own a DVD player or drive in my laptop anymore so I download everything or watch it online. Miss the video store days. Thanks for the trip.

  • Pingback: Viva la VHS! A look back at my first video rental stores | Cult Film Club

  • http://www.rediscoverthe80s.com/ Jason G

    I vividly remember renting a VCR for my birthday party when I was 8 or 9. We got start wars iv and the dirt bike kid starting Peter Billingsley. That store is now a tobacco discount store in my hometown.

    Another movie rental place that still exists in my hometown of Clearfield, PA began in an old KFC building. To this day I call it Kentucky Fried Video.

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      I just saw the Dirt Bike Kid for the first time this past year, bat-shit crazy flick! Also, you’re second anecdote is pure fried gold!

      • http://twitter.com/paxtonholley Paxton Holley

        Dirt Bike Kid is one of my favorites. I watched it based on the goodwill of Christmas Story alone. IN THE THEATER. And it delivers. I considered putting it on the CFC movie list.

        • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

          I would fit on the list for sure, a boy and his sentient bike!