It’s International Independent Video Store Day today! If you and your local video store have lost touch over the last few months, this is the perfect opportunity to get re-acquainted. You’ve heard me prattle on about the video stores of my youth, but today I’d like to focus on one in particular.
Reel Fun Video was an establishment run by a guy named Stan not too far from my house growing up, and boy did I make good use of it. Initially, when I was younger, I'd go there with my Dad and pick up a few new horrors for the weekend, but when I got older I started to bike over there myself. I remember they also used to rent video games and had an Atari 2600 set up. I used to pester the shit out of the employees to try out new games, under the guise of maybe renting them. God, I must have been annoying.
Then again, I did spend a good share of my allowance in there, so maybe I was a necessary evil. I swear I must have worn out their copy of Evil Dead 2 I rented it so many times. I can still remember the layout of that tiny store. I think Stan closed up shop just before the nineties hit, but he had a good run there for a while. When I drive by that plaza nowadays – the unit is now a daycare – I always feel a pang of nostalgia.
But anyway, let us now turn to the ones that are still alive and well. There are over a dozen stores participating in Video Store Day (for the full list, click here) and I reached out to a select few to answer some questions.
"If you're asking what my personal first rental was it was probably IF... or DAWN OF THE DEAD from SAM's on Yonge Street. If the question is about what the first rental for Suspect was it was probably TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE as the original Leatherface did a signing at the store the day we opened."
-Luis Ceriz; Suspect Video.
"Wow, let me think waaaaaaaaaay way back... It was 1981 or 82, I believe. We didn't have a VCR at my house but a friend of mine's family did and we would take a bus and a subway to the nearest video shop... I'm fairly certain that A Clockwork Orange was my first rental.... I remember the clerk said that she probably shouldn't be renting it to us (we were 12 - 13 years old!!) She also made a sarcastic joke about how we might also want some videos of Chicago race riots... so, some things never change!!!"
-Daniel Hanna; Eyesore Cinema.
"The Devil Walks at Midnight."
-Zack Wilson; The Vault.
"There really wasn't anything around me believe it or not however when I was pretty young I would go and rent stuff from SAM THE RECORD MAN on Yonge St. They had a strange system where you'd go through catalogues, write down the code number(s) of your choices, give them to the counter person, they would put them on a kind of dumb waiter where the tray would disappear up a track into the ceiling and you would wait for the rentals to descend (Believe it or not.)"
"When I was a young pup there weren't many video shops to choose from. The first one I remember with any distinction was The Video Gore Store... it was in Scarborough and it didn't last too long. But I remember that I got my first Ken Russell film from there... Crimes of Passion."
"Jumbo Video was the ultimate and had the best titles, however in my hometown, MOVIESHACK was best, specially when it went under and VHS were up for grabs!!"
"I think that they still provide various things that online services just can't. Besides the obvious space for film fans to gather, discuss and be a part of a REAL community we also provide all kinds of personal opinions, and thoughts regarding new and classic film voices that people may never even consider without a thoughtful discussion and exploration of what they're interested in. We also provide a place where you can browse through all manner of film books, magazines and even toys of the movies people love."
"Selection, service, knowledge, personality, wisdom, intuition, conversations, recommendations, debates, interaction, discovery, humanity... Do we really want to live in The Matrix? Wall-e is a great film... but is that the future we actually want?"
"Growing up I was always part of a club. Hockey, acting class, bowling etc. Folks need a place where they can gather with like minded individuals, a place of sanctuary if you will. I feel no matter what age you are, that this is true. To me a video store holds just that. As well, for as long as I can remember, we have always had a day when families unite in their station wagons and head off down the road to there local video store for a fun filled night of flicks. Something so simple as a movie can be an escape from the dealing of everyday life, and everyone needs that escape. Long live the Video Store and forever will you have my support!!"
"It's gotta be DVD. Affordable, looks great, and lots of extras."
"Well, I of course love the VHS packaging, all those great old school painted covers and what-not! But, for my money, DVD beats all!!! VHS, for all the nostalgia, looks like crap, sounds like crap and most titles were pan & scan and edited. Laser disc was silly to me... you had to flip the damn things! Blu-ray is overkill and ruins older films... it is not an accurate interpretation of the original media. I don't like the way HD looks at all. My 'home entertainment' set up is an upscalling DVD player and a 20'' CRT monitor."
"The reason THE VAULT stays is such good shape is the trading and sales of VHS. While no other store carries them, we do proudly! Everyone knows of someone getting pissed and throwing tapes at walls or their friends, where are those tapes today? Sitting like trophies on our shelves, still there, still in great shape!!! I love VHS and no dusty cobwebbed box will keep us apart!!"
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