This post was contributed by Jon Hickman.
Another Clerks riff for this post. Randall talks about working in a “shitty video store”, and lusts after a trip to Big Choice – his VHS mecca. The proudest VHS moment in my life was having seen everything worth watching in Blockbuster, and then getting stuck into all the other stores which held better back catalogues. This is kind of a flip reverse on Randall’s approach to renting films: I love an independent, and I’d be happier in RTS Video than I would in Big Choice.
Blockbuster’s stores (and by the look of it, in Clerks, Big Choice’s too) have always been based around charts. The store is laid out in terms of charts, and the stock rotates with the chart too. Although Erdington Blockbuster had a golden age circa 2000 where it held older movies, most Blockbuster stores I’ve been to seemed to drop a line into ex-rental as soon as it left the Top-20. Indies tended to hold stock for much longer, allowing members to pick up movies they missed first time around, or maybe allowing them to revisit some lost classics. They also held films that wouldn’t pull big bucks in the first week of being on rental – a proper world section, some indie sleeper hits – the VHS Long Tail.
A few independent stores I’ve used over the years held phenomenal stock levels. The video store on Beeches Walk in Sutton Coldfield (now a Hunter’s Estate agents, natch) had the VHS sleeves mounted into slimline display cases so they could display all the choices in a room about 10 feet by 10 feet square. You could flip through the sleeves like a vinyl rack, and then retrieve your VHS from the desk. The back room must have been like a TARDIS to hold that much stock. The point of all this is, you felt in charge of your movie experience. You had a real big choice; the charts didn’t dictate your choice for you.
And on that point we should note that Blockbuster has a role to play not just in terms of the movies that are available to you, but to the formats that you can rent. VHS died not when Curry’s stopped selling the machines, but when Blockbuster and HMV stopped providing the software. On the rare trips I make to the rental store now, I start to feel that it might be time to go BluRay: Blockbuster is winding down the DVD choice, calling time on another solid format.