It's time for brick-and-mortar video rental stores to come back

Okay, it’s time for the physical video rental industry to make a comeback.

The golden age of online streaming is over. Until recently, with subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, HBO (just for the few months that Game of Thrones has new episodes), and Amazon, I could stream almost anything I could think of for no extra charge. Pretty much the only things I couldn’t get were premium original series from HBO rivals like Showtime and Starz.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been encountering more and more situations in which huge chunks of my watchlists are disappearing as licensing deals start running out. There are almost zero classic movies left on Netflix and Hulu. (At one time I could watch pretty much the entire oeuvre of Satyajit Ray on Hulu. All gone now.)

These days when my wife wants to watch something specific, more often than not, we end up renting it from iTunes.

A few months ago, I subscribed to CBS so I could watch Star Trek Discovery. I’m at my limit. I’m not going to sign up for Warner Bros. streaming so I can watch DC movies, for Disney streaming so I can watch Star Wars and Marvel movies, and more.

So today, I dug out my library card to go look at my local library’s DVD collection. I used to borrow a lot of movies and TV shows on VHS and DVD from the public library back in the 1990s. I saw almost all the biggest Humphrey Bogart movies that way.

But my current library’s collection is very hit-and-miss. Unless public libraries step up their game, that’s not an adequate substitute.

But, you say, Netflix’s mail-order DVD business still exists! You could still use that! What, another monthly subscription to add to everything else? And I have doubts that that particular service has much of a future at this point. Besides, it turns out I love browsing DVDs on a shelf. I discover things that way, I’m reminded of things, etc.

Bring back the physical video rental place! Display those objects! Encourage browsing! Append a café! Have in-store movie festivals and lectures. Include video games and video game tournaments!

Someone do this? All over the country? Please?

Yes, please. I peruse flea markets and junk stores. There are often big collections of DVDs for cheap. But, beware once in awhile you’ll get a damaged disc or OMG!, someone’s home movies, never good.

There’s a marvelous local DVD store down the road from us. About a decade ago I saw the writing on the wall for it and figured it’d be closed within six months.

It’s still open.

They’ve gone through lots of changes: they now sell vintage video games, geeky toys and collectibles. They added a porn section, then got rid of the porn section. They added monthly subscriptions at various levels. They played around with pricing.

I go to them maybe two or three times a year, when I want something that’s hard to find online (e.g., Miyazaki films), and every time I wish I went to them more often, because they’re marvelous. But I hope you’re right, and that changing markets let them stay in business as long as they’d like.

Fuck all that. I watch movies and play video games to get away from and forget people.

Is there nothing in the movies or video games you play that are reminiscent of people?

Anyway, I said nothing about forcing Snfaulkner to come out of his self-imposed hermitage to patronize these stores, so what’s it to you?

Even public libraries are going to streaming now. A couple of the ones I have access to offer movies and shows through services they have subscriptions to. For our county library it makes sense since it saves them space.

We have a vinyl record shop in town - maybe eventually DVDs and CDs will join those relics too. I doubt anyone is missing VHS.

I know the frustration. I cancelled my Hulu account last year, partly because they lost their Criterion Collection movies.

But it may be a bit too early to toll the death knell on online streaming. As the Hulus and Netflixes drop these films, there will be others coming along to pick them up. You might want to check out TCM’s website. I think they’re offering a Watch on Demand service.

There’s a similar resale store at my nearby shopping mall; they do appear to make most of their money from gaming and accessories, and in addition to this, they do have DVDs, CDs, books, comics, and other items. They sold small appliances for a short time but that didn’t last very long (coffee makers, microwaves, popcorn poppers, etc.) It’s on the opposite end of the mall from Barnes & Noble, and their clienteles are totally different.

If at some point (already?) online streaming services suck, pirate/gray market services will simply make a big comeback. It’s a principle of least effort, especially since anything remotely popular or classic has always been readily available, and billions of people do not live in a big city with a nearby cheap DVD rental place or in a place subject to US copyright jurisdiction.

One problem with the idea of seeing a return of B&M video stores is that some of the new movies and programs aren’t available on DVD/Blu-Ray, like some of the programs original to Amazon or Netflix.

But yes, the fragmentation of the streaming marketplace is almost enough to make me nostalgic for the days when everything was available from the cable company, even if I had to pay for a bundle of channels, some of which I didn’t want. Ironically, you might soon be able to subscribe to a bundle of streaming services.

Maybe he watches Planet Earth with the narration turned off.

If I buy something, I want to have it in perpetuity. So I really dislike the current paradigm of never actually owning anything we watch, just renting it for a while.

I’d rather do things the right way. But since this is the way things are right now, I have no problem with people viewing (and keeping) media that “fell off the back of an electronic truck”.

Acsenray , you must have had a very different experience with brick and mortar rental places than I did. The places where I could rent movies typically had multiple copies of the latest movies, and single copies of movies that were popular in the past. If a movie was never popular, there wouldn’t be a copy at all - the selection was better than Redbox, but not by much. I certainly couldn’t decide I wanted to watch something specific and have any expectation that I would be walking out of the video store with that movie - they might have 30 copies of Bohemian Rhapsody the day it’s released, but there’s no guarantee that they won’t all be rented before I arrive at the store.

All the more reason to appreciate little hipster DVD shops :). The place I sometimes frequent (oxymoron alert) is run by a genial movie buff who has all the Marvel movies, but also has tons of weird shit that strikes his fancy, and has an entire wall of foreign movies divvied up by nation of origin. It’s a great place to browse.

You’d be surprised. There are some movies that were released on VHS but not on later formats like DVD or Blu-Ray.

The difficulty nowadays is finding a VCR. The last company manufacturing them stopped in 2016. So after scrounging around for old videotapes at flea markets, you have to also look for a player.

I’m still slowly converting old VHS here at home. I need to hurry up about it, too, since some of the old stuff is deteriorating to the point it’s not going to be worth saving if I wait too much longer.

Late in its existence, Blockbuster stores had plenty of copies of the new hot titles, as many as 50-100. And the way they did this was clever; Blockbuster made deals with the studios in which they’d give a small amount to the studios for every rental, in exchange for large numbers of free or low-cost copies of the new titles.

Family Video is still around in my area.

There’s still a Redbox in the local Wal-Mart, I think. And our one video rental store is still there, but reduced to half the size it used to be. The other half became a Pizza Hut.

And for the prices they now charge for rental – 2 movies for a dollar for a weekend – anytime I want to see one, I’m told they’re all out.

I just rent movies on Google Play. Better selection than the brick and mortar stores of yesteryear, and far more convenient.