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The Internet Killed the Video Store


Not so long ago, the local video store was commonplace on streets across the country. But recent years have seen this once booming industry suffer a rapid decline in popularity. Since the dawn of technological advances, our once-luxuries have been replaced by faster and more innovative ideas. Even Redbox sales have dwindled due to online streaming. The rise of movie-on-demand services and digital downloads have forced many stores to shut, often leaving behind scenes resembling something from a post-apocalyptic movie that the store would once have stocked.

The first video stores appeared towards the end of the 1970s and by the mid-1980s, the home entertainment industry had taken off in a big way with chains such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video dominating the market.

Currently, there are only 12 Blockbusters still open - 8 in Alaska, 2 in Oregon and 2 in Texas. Alan Payne owns the 8 in Alaska and more than half of the revenue is generated during a six-hour period on Friday nights. In Alaska internet service is more expensive than in most states, because data packages are not unlimited. They charge by the gig. Payne also reported that 20 percent of sales came from rentals of online streaming TV shows — from the “binge watchers." Those dark, long winters and expensive WiFi have helped maintain a core group of loyal customers. The ‘Last Frontier.'

- Blockbuster in Fairbanks


In San Diego there are only two, soon to be one video stores left in business. Blowout DVD on 4004 Sports Arena Blvd and Kensington Video on 4067 Adams Ave.

Kensington Video is a true throwback and family owned since 1984. What Blockbuster couldn't do and what Hollywood Video couldn't do, Kensington Video did, outlasting all the big boys of the video rental world. They do business overseeing the rentals of over 70,000 movies and documentaries without any help from computers. Everything is done by hand. The word is that at Kensington Video, customers can find every movie ever made. The people who run it, the Hanfords', are about the nicest people on the planet. Rich Hanford, now in his eighties and the store patriarch, routinely watches 700 movies a year to keep himself in the loop with his customers.

Today is Friday, May 5th or Cinco de Mayo. As many people are headed for the bars to celebrate "Cinco de Drinko," I find myself at Blowout DVD. Particularly because I recently discovered that they will be succumbing to the fate of defunct video stores.

-Blowout DVD, San Diego

When I moved to San Diego in 2011, I stumbled across Blowout DVD nestled behind Taco Bell on Midway Drive. I was blown away. With over 30,000 titles, they had the option to rent or purchase at a very reasonable cost. And what they didn't have in stock, they would special order. I loved browsing the aisles. There was always a good movie playing in the background and movie buffs were there to brush shoulders and strike a conversation with. But a few months ago I noticed a sign stating they were relocating. The new location was at an old scuba dive shop down the street, so I didn't think too much into it. But after a few months into business at the new location, internal issues with the owner of the building gave rise to problems resulting in the lease to be terminated. They will only be open for another month or so - and then forever closed like so many of our beloved video store 2nd homes.

If you have a database full of everything ever shared in the world at the click of a button from your couch, why leave home?

For me, it's nostalgia. But nostalgia don't pay the bills. People crave convenience. And since you DON'T have to leave home now on a Friday night because you can order essentially anything you want with a mobile app, people aren't browsing the video store aisles like they used to.

I grew up as an 80's-90's kid. Friday nights were sleepover nights and we would kick it off with a trip to the video store. Preferably 'East of Oz' where it was 3 movies for 3 bucks for 3 nights. They were busy places back then - 1000's of videos, movie posters, bustling with people and music pumping through the speakers. I could spend hours in there mesmerized by the cover art and vibrant film history. People today don't realize that back then if someone before you had rented a video and not returned it to the store, you had to go without it and pick something else. Now, everything is available instantly. Supply never runs out...EVER. I have a distinct feeling that as I get older and older, I will look back to the 80's and 90's with great fondness. Not all change is pleasant.

I always drifted toward the horror section. There was something nostalgic about the 80s horror genre. 80s practical effects, cheesy one-liners and punk rock cover art made up the classic archetype that was everything awesome. My favorite cover was The Return of the Living Dead. Neon, spray-painting skeletons rising from the grave? So much YES.

-Courtesy of ORION Pictures


In addition to rental stores closing, the once booming Gaslamp Reading Cinema 15 in downtown San Diego has officially been boarded up as of February 2016. The Los Angeles-based company with 476 screens in 58 multiplexes in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S., offered no explanation for its departure.

-Gaslamp Reading Cinema, San Diego

If you were born in the late 90's you might not understand the nostalgia of the video store. No fault of your own. I love my KODI with the Exodus plug-in. I can stream anything I want. But us 80s kids grew up with the pre-internet love for all things tangible. And as far as media, what wasn't there at a push of a button, we tied up the phone lines to search with AOL dial up. Before we know it, we're all going to be genetically altered stem cells living on Earth 2. So take a step back. Take your loved ones to the video store and get lost in the films on the shelves. It's a unique feeling. Embrace our cinema. Before long, it will all be a thing of the past.


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