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The Top 5 Video Stores Of All-Time

April 3, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Family Video

My Top 5 Favorite Video Stores

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The recent success of The Last Blockbuster documentary on Netflix got me thinking about my favorite video stores over the years. I frequented many back in the day, mostly for movies but, on occasion, video games, too (original NES games and Super Nintendo games mostly. Mario Andretti Racing is the only game I remember renting for the Sega Genesis). It was always fun to walk the aisles and see what, exactly, a particular video store had. The New Release section was always the first place, mostly to see what, exactly, counted as a new release (some stores only had new movies in the new release section, and some actually had new home video releases of old movies in the new release section). I would then head to the action section, followed by the horror section, mostly to see if they still had the movies I wanted to rent but never seemed to be in at the time. That tended to happen more with the horror section than the action section.

Now, in this day and age, video stores are basically a thing of the past. They still exist but their numbers are dwindling with every week. Will the ones that we still have, the ones that are still hanging in there, survive? Who knows? And how much longer will physical media continue to exist? When will streaming be your only option to watch a movie or a TV show or whatever the case may be?

I don’t want to think about it. I’d much rather, at least for right now, think about the past. The video store.

And now, my Top 5 Favorite Video Stores:

My Top 5 Favorite Video Stores

5- Family Video: Family Video was the last major video store chain to go down, as it went out of business at the beginning of 2021 (as a physical video store chain. It still technically exists as some sort of online store thing). The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic basically killed the chain or, made its demise happen faster than it would have had there been no pandemic. I wasn’t going to include any “national chain” rental stores on this list, but I couldn’t justify leaving Family Video simply because it was a chain. If a Family Video hadn’t opened down the street from my home back in late 2007/early 2008 I probably wouldn’t have started The Gratuitous B-Movie Column when I did because the store’s existence made me realize, in a big way, that there were still tons of potentially great low budget B-movies out there just waiting to be discovered and reviewed. And that was what made Family Video special to me. It had loads of weird movies from Lionsgate, Maverick Entertainment Group, and so many more (my local FV even had the occasional Troma or Full Moon title). You could rent two “old” movies 2 for $1 and I did that God knows how many times. The store also had this odd plastic smell that I found comforting walking into and experiencing. It was also nice to see “Coming Soon” posters on the wall, running down what was coming soon. It sucks that it’s gone now.

4- Chimney’s Video: I “discovered” this video store towards the end of its existence and I was depressed as fuck when it closed because there were still so many movies that I wanted to rent. The store had loads of old movies of all genres, more than any other video store that I frequented then. I loved this place’s science fiction section (they had lots of classic sci-fi movies, more than any store near me). The overall ambiance of the store was also different than any other place in my area. It seemed more laid back, which made it seem “cooler” than Blockbuster (that was basically across the street). Again, I wish I had made Chimney’s a regular stop in my video renting routine. It was a great place to rent a movie from.

3- RX Place In-Store Video Store: Remember when grocery stores had their own video departments? It was always fun wandering into the video department to see what sort of weird shit they had in there (and it was always my experience that these video departments had some of the weirdest old movies, even weirder than most “Mom and Pop” independent video stores, especially in the action section). My absolute favorite video department was in a sort of pharmacy called the RX Place. It was on the right side of the store, in a corner of the floor plan. It wasn’t very big, but the section packed in loads of old and weird stuff, and the store’s rental prices were cheaper/more reasonable than other stores/departments. The RX Place is where I discovered the movies of Full Moon Entertainment, as it’s the first place I noticed them. I wouldn’t have seen Dollman or Trancers 4: Jack of Swords, or any of the Subspecies movies without the RX Place. And this was also the only video store that I knew of that had all of the Ilsa movies. This was also the only video store that I could walk to, which was important because, when it was a thing, I didn’t have a license. I’d love to know if the store sold all of the tapes before it closed down or if it just threw them out. I’d like to think that people were able to buy the tapes because that’s just so much cooler.

2-Video King: This was my last local video chain to close down, and the one I frequented the most had at least two different locations. The first one was the best as it had a dedicated horror section that, when you went into it, it was like walking into a cave. It was also slightly darker in there than in the rest of the store. The VHS boxes on display always looked more impressive and scarier in that room. This version of the store also had a terrific action section (they had plenty of Cannon movies) and an erotic thriller section that resembled the movie lineup on The Movie Channel late at night on the weekend (this store had the unrated In the Cold of the Night, which really wasn’t any better than the rated version, but it was still awesome that there was a video store that had that movie in it in unrated form). When the store moved locations it lost the ambiance of the old place (no more dedicated horror section that you walked into) but gained in terms of the number of movies it seemed to have. Holy shit this new place had loads of movies. Loads. This place had all sorts of martial arts movies that I had never heard of up until that point, not to mention a terrific selection of low budget Italian sci-fi movies (this is where I first rented 1990: Bronx Warriors, Escape from the Bronx, and 2019: After the Fall of New York). Video King was also the only place where I lived that actually had the Warner Home Video clamshell version of Death Wish II, a movie that was impossible to find (all of the other video stores where I lived had Death Wish 1, 3, 4, and sometimes 5, but never 2). Video King also had great sales of VHS tapes when the remaining video stores made the transition to DVD. I wish I had purchased more of them. Video King, for me, was the last place you could rent five movies for five dollars. That was always bliss.

1—Bridgehampton Video: This store also had multiple locations over the years, but I only went to two of them and only during the summer (I tried to rent from the store as often as I could when I went to college but that was difficult to do). This store always seemed like the kind of store that emphasized older titles as opposed to new ones, although it did have an extensive new releases section. It had the best comedy section of any video store I stepped foot into (it had the Police Squad! VHS releases, something I didn’t even know existed until I saw it on the shelf). Its horror section was second to none (it had all of the Faces of Death videos, all of George A. Romero’s movies, and all sorts of weird shit I wish I had written down because I can sort of see it in my head right now but I can’t remember the titles). Bridgehampton Video is also the first place I rented Dawn of the Dead because it actually had it. BV was also one of the few video stores that had the awesome sci-fi action horror flick Peacemaker starring Robert Forster, Robert Davi, and Lance Edwards, a movie that still isn’t on DVD or Blu-ray (the world would be a much better place if Peacemaker was on home video. It really would be. It’s a movie that everyone needs to have in their lives). BV was also the first place I went to that had Troma’s War, a movie with one of the greatest tag lines in history (“It’s not real but who cares?”). This store also had all sorts of cool movie posters on the wall, some of them signed by the stars of the movie (what I wouldn’t give to have the Relentless 3 poster signed by star Leo Rossi that was on the wall above the front desk). When this place finally closed during my college years, I made an effort to buy as many VHS tapes as I could afford. I bought the Troma’s War tape, along with Peacemaker, Chopping Mall, and Dead Heat. I wanted to buy the old WWF tape for The Big Event but some rat bastard bought that an hour before I got there that day. I also bought the posters for Blade and John Carpenter’s Vampires, two posters that I still have today. They’re wrinkled a bit, just like when I bought them, but I’m glad that I still have them. I still have the tapes, too. That video store still lives, in a way. Right?

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