I know this to be true from my own personal experience: I haven’t stepped inside a video store since 2005, if memory serves.
The good doctor’s post got me reflecting long and hard on the golden age of the video store (say, roughly 1983 – 1999). So this is my eulogy for them. And like most eulogies, it’s probably not terribly original, just…personal.
Simply stated, I came of age with video stores in the early 1980s.
Growing up in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, the video store that my family frequented was near Brookdale Park and the Shop Rite in Essex County. The store was named Currys.
It was…my first time.
The small shop boasted a vast back-room library filled with videotapes, which was accessible only to employees (in most cases, the proprietor’s lovely daughters.) When you bought a full membership to Currys, as my family did, you became the recipient of the establishment’s huge membership notebook, a heavy brick that was bound between blue covers. Inside was a single-spaced listing of all the available films at Currys by collection number. The catalog was your key to unlocking the video library.
The Currys catalog seemed to consist of all the titles known to man and God, and went on for what seemed like hundreds of pages. I remember the first time I began reading the document in earnest, marker in hand, gazing at what seemed an entire universe of titles. Ahead of me was the great pleasure of discovering decades of great — and not-so-great — movies. I surely must have spent hours with that catalog.
And what was that movie with a row of disembodied arms on a wall? Oh yeah, The Frozen Dead…
Today, I readily admit, this whole process sounds absolutely byzantine. But I loved it. Picking out movies from Curry’s was a serious, exciting endeavor, and I’ll always remember the thrill of carrying home six of those brown or black boxes under one arm. It was an amazing feeling to know that right there you had a weekend’s worth of entertainment and discovery.
When I moved to Richmond to go to college, there were other video stores that I dated, but most of them didn’t carry the selection that Curry’s did. Instead, new releases dominated these stores, and that took some of the fun out of the “rental” experience. These gals were shallow compared to Currys.
There was just something magical about going to Curry’s, plucking an odd title out of the catalog (like Sorority Babes at the Slime Ball Bowl-a-rama) and then watching a movie that, heretofore, you never imagined could exist.
I’m not complaining about the way things are now. I love Netflix, I love the easy availability of most titles in the DVD (er, Blu-Ray) age. This is good; this is the way it should be: with the majority of film history at your finger tips, just ready to be discovered.
But sometimes, I miss the anticipatory act of compiling my Curry’s list, of transcribing numbers, and waiting — with some anxiety — for the clerk to return with my clutch of selected movies, to see which titles would be in stock.
And some days, I still miss going to Curry’s with my Dad, just for the fellowship of the journey and the experience. I wonder if my son, Joel, will gaze back at his youth and remember his dad picking up red envelopes from the mailbox and ripping them open to remove the small, square DVD sleeves.