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.