Americana / Film / Hong Kong / In Memorium / Steve's Life

The Incredible (Disappearing) Video Store

The Incredible (Disappearing) Video Store

I did something today I haven’t done for a long time. I went to the video store and got a membership! Wow! Renting movies from a store. How “5 minutes ago is that?” The reason was that Park Island, where I live here in Hong Kong, has a small DVD store so I decided to give it a try…for old time sake.

Walking in, it almost had the feeling of nostalgia. Like a last glimpse at a way of life that would soon disappear. Its a shame really.

These days I tend to download TV shows and movies from iTunes, stream from the Internet, or purchase cheap DVDs on my occasional trips into China.

But before all that was possible…there was “the video shop”.

I remember, it must have been about 1983, the time our family got our first video player. Wow! To be able to record a movie from the TV and watch it again at your leisure later…what a concept. Till that time, movies like the Wizard of Oz came on once a year…if you missed it, tough luck, you waited till the next year. I remember one night in the late 1970’s when Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was showing on a Sunday evening but my parents insisted on our all going to church instead. I was beside myself in tears…church was every week, Willy Wonka was only once a year. (Couldn’t they do the math?) Now with VHS, Willy Wonka could be watched every day, if I wanted.

Suddenly, every retail store was in on the video rental game. Even my local 7-11 made a short lived stab at renting videos. Hard to believe that you had to pay for a membership in those early days and if you wanted to purchase a movie on video, it could run as high as US$100.

So, here is my ode to the video stores that meant so much to me through the years:

Movieland: (Shelby, Michigan): First video store I “lived” at. It was run by a little old couple that didn’t know much about movies but I think decided to give this new market product a shot. If someone asked the old man if they had a movie he yell over to me as I was perusing the tapes, “Hey Steve, do we have this movie.” I rented from that shop from 1983 till about ’87. It eventually became a auto parts shop and I have no idea whatever happened to the little old couple. However, I did go on a date with one of the young attendant’s they hired…that didn’t go so well 🙂

KPS video: (Shatin, Hong Kong) From about the time Tammy and I got married, the KPS video chain exploded in Hong Kong. A trip to the mall at New Town Plaza could hardly not involve a trip to this video store. A phone call to each other would often be, “I’ll pick up dinner and make a stop by “Kipps” for a movie.” When a Typhoon would hit Hong Kong you would see a congo line of people snaking out into the mall stocking up on films to ride out the storm. Unfortunately, KPS overextended themselves in expansion and eventually went out of business about 1998.

Movieland: (Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong) When the church I pastored finally got it’s own space in Lan Kwai Fong, the Movieland across the street immediately got one of its best customers. The shop was run by a young Filipino man who started buying whole TV series for rental. Finally, I was able to catch up on Star Trek as well as being introduced to Friends. I was pleasantly surprised to see when I returned to Hong Kong after 10 years that the store was still there. I talked with the young lady who worked there and said that although business was tougher these days, they were still doing OK.

The Video Station: (Boulder, Colorado): Probably the best video store I have been in ever. It is staffed on its two floors by people who know and love film. When a friend recommended an Indian movie I “must see” I went up to the Video Station and asked them, “You probably haven’t heard of it, but I’m looking for the Indian movie Devdas.” Instead of looking at me with the blank stare I would have got at any other video store, he smiled and said, “Do you want it on VHS or DVD?” I loved the Video Station and it was my video store “home” during my Boulder Colorado years.

Something will be missed when the video store finally disappears for good. As a unashamed movie lover, there was something about the vibe of talking to other people abut films, discussing recommendations, and the hours of perusing the synopsis on the backs of movies, sometimes discovering that unknown cinematic gem.

I’m not sure if “Video killed the Radio Star”, but I do know that the internet is killing the video store. One day, when its gone for good, many of us my age will look back with great affection and be telling our grandchildren of a time “when you could go up to these stores, and they would rent you movies.”

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