Opinion

Remember when a trip to the video store was the start of a great night in?

Chris Roe25 June 2022
man and VHS

Reflecting on the “good old days” of the corner video store: Photo: Chris Roe & Lost Wagga Wagga.

I’ve spent the last week locked in a bedroom. COVID finally caught up with me.

Aside from the relentless week-long headache and brain fog, it seemed like the ultimate 2020s assignment – Netflix and chill – but weirdly I found myself getting nostalgic for a trip to the video store.

With a world of things to watch across a handful of streaming platforms, I couldn’t find anything that grabbed my interest.

As boredom settled in, I drifted down a YouTube rabbit warren of random US news clips and, surprisingly, freestyle rappers.

It was a Facebook post on the always engaging Lost Wagga Wagga page that got me thinking of the good old days.


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A collage of video store logos and ads was posted with the caption, “Video hire was big business at the end of last century and the early 2000s. Here are just a few of the numerous video hire stores in Wagga back in the days before movies were easily accessible on television.”

It triggered a wave of engagement on something I never thought I’d be nostalgic for.

Commenters shared memories of the big ones like Blockbuster, Video EZY and Civic but also fondly remembered Videos on Chaston, the Plains Video, Video 2001 and the countless corner stores, cafes and newsagents that kept a rotating rack.

The first video cassette recorder on our farm in the early 80s was a massive silver JVC with clunky switches and a spring-loaded top that popped up to allow you to slide in a boxy black VHS with a “click-clack” and a whir.

For bush kids with nothing but the ABC on an old black and white, it was mind-blowing.

A trip to town on a Friday became an adventure. Who knew what amazing new titles had landed in the store that week?

There was Benji, Herbie Goes Bananas, The Sound of Music, The Dark Crystal and most important of all, Star Wars.

As teenagers, watching a movie was something we all did together.

We’d fight over the choices at the video store then pile into a mate’s room to watch Karate Kid, Die Hard, Lost Boys, Mad Max or Back to the Future.

If “the girls” condescended to join us, perhaps we’d go for The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

We’d rewind the cool bits and repeat the one-liners for weeks after.

As video stores expanded and the big franchises moved in with their laminated cards, bright lights and dozens of copies of the latest titles, the deals came too.

The savings were hard to resist, but of course, the overdue fines that followed were crippling. That $2 new release on Tuesday quickly became a $12 fine on Thursday.

In the 90s and early 2000s, visiting the video store was a whole thing.

You’d run into your mates as they shuffled about the aisles in their ugg boots, traded two-word reviews of the ones you’d seen and silently judged their poor selection.


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You usually had an idea of what you wanted to watch before you got there.

You’d sat through 10 minutes of previews at the start of every VHS you watched.

The posters counted down the days to the latest blockbuster releases and you’d even get empty boxes for next week’s titles staking out a place on the shelf and building anticipation.

But to get the good ones, you had to time it right. If you left your run too late on a Friday, the double-stacked new releases might be down to just the empty covers.

Disaster.

You were now stuck in the purgatory of new-to-weekly or even – god forbid – weeklies!

You could spend an hour searching for a second-rate compromise only to find the tape was damaged, the picture streaked with scrolling lines of static and the audio warped.

Sometimes even a squirt of metho and a quick run of the head-cleaner tape wasn’t enough to save it.

Ah, the good old days!

Despite the obvious drawbacks of the wonky old VHS, there was still a bit of magic around those video cassettes – and the ritual of renting them.

It’s genuinely fantastic today to have so many options and the convenience to watch whatever we want wherever we are.

I wonder whether being spoiled for choice has taken away some of the simple, shared joy of making a choice with your friends and family and gathering together around a small, boxy TV to watch a new release?

Or perhaps I’m just getting old and nostalgic and got excited by the idea of escaping my COVID isolation.

Original Article published by Chris Roe on Region Riverina.

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