Posts Tagged ‘Tower Records & Video’

The More Things Change…

January 19, 2012

The more blog ideas I get.  Two items on the Internet inspired this entry.  They are:

The Historical Fact
On December 28, 1895, the first commercially screened movie was shown in the Grand Café in Paris. The film, called Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory, is 46 seconds long and shows people leaving the Lumiere factory in Lyon, France. The film was screened by Auguste and Louis Lumiere (their father owned the factory) and people actually paid to see this, along with other short films, created by the Lumiere brothers.

The Recent Development
The December 27, 2011 entry of Entertainment Weekly’s Popwatch blog was a part lament/part rant about the demise of the video rental store. What lead to this article was that the author wanted to rent Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and she couldn’t find it anywhere. So, she was stuck with downloading it from iTunes. (The horror!)

My Two Cents
Regarding the first movie shown to a paying audience, everything has a beginning and movies are no exception. Yes, the act of going to see a motion picture began in a humble Parisian cafe. I saw the film (Thank you, You Tube) and while it doesn’t compare Hollywood’s current output, it is worth a lot as a historical document. Imagine being a patron of the Grand Café. A poster advertising a new attraction piques your interest. You go in, pay admission and see something you have never seen before, namely, moving images on a wall. We in the early 21st century take it for granted that there are motion pictures. In late 19th century Paris, motion pictures, even if all they do is show people leaving factory, were an amazing new sight to behold. Attached is the film, let me know what you think of it.

Now for the endings part of this blog entry. Thanks to Netflix, DVD vending machines and the Internet, the end of the video rental store is coming.  Yes, for whatever reason there will be some holdouts that survive because they serve a niche in their community. Still, trend is to get videos from a source other than a bricks and mortar store. On the one hand that is good, because the choice is in consumer’s hands and in the case of Netflix and the Internet, they have more items than can ever be found in a bricks and mortar store.

On the other hand, searching for something on the Internet or just viewing the selections from a DVD vending machine, seems so sterile. I can remember going to a Tower Records & Video (RIP) near my house to rent a movie and not having any idea what to rent until I actually found something after browsing the aisles for at least 15 minutes. While that happens with the Internet, there’s no sense of adventure when what you want is right at your fingertips. As for vending machines, they are limited to 20 to 40 titles of the most recent releases or straight to video duds. While it is great to rent the latest Harry Potter film from one of these machines, noticing that Piranha 3DD is listed below right below it doesn’t enhance the experience—at least it doesn’t for me.

Still, who would have thought in 1895 that there would be computer-animated films, films made with motion capture technology and even just films made in color and having spoken dialogue and other sounds. In addition, who would have thought in 1995 that video stores would be replaced by Netflix, vending machines and the Internet. Of course, time marches on and things evolve and change. So, who knows what entertainment or other wonders that tech heads will dream up and create. Whatever comes next, it is good to have a sense of appreciation for what is and a sense of wonder for is to come. Believe it or not, there was a time when even cable television didn’t exist. Now there are over a hundred channels available to those who subscribe to service and people actually complain about “…nothing good being on TV.”

Sources:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/the-birthday-of-the-movies.html

http://www.earlycinema.com/pioneers/lumiere_bio.html

http://popwatch.ew.com/2011/12/27/contrarian-corner-ive-had-it-with-video-stores/

Some Video Stars Aren’t Dead Yet

September 29, 2011

True confession time. I don’t subscribe to Netflix. (Gasp!) I don’t rent DVD’s from Redbox. (Shudder!)  I when I’m in the mood for a watching a movie at home, I go to my local library. The library near where I live has a great selection of movies, children’s DVD’s and old television shows. Blame it on Tower Records & Video (R.I.P.), which was also located near where I live. When I went to Tower for a video to rent, lots of times I didn’t know what I wanted to watch until looked around and found something that caught my eye. Memorable rentals from Tower include Logan’s Run, Batman Returns, The 6th Day, Family Man and even an episode of Nova that dealt with the restoration of the Sistine Chapel.

Unfortunately, the video store is an endangered species. In 2001, there were 25,000 video stores in the U.S. By 2010, the number of video stores went down to 9,900. Still, there are a few hold outs and here are some notable ones:

Video Connections
Just when I thought that all the Mom and Pop video stores were eaten by Blockbuster and other chains, I read about this one store in Vancouver, Washington, that is alive, well and has a vigorous client base. Why? Simple, as the chains have fallen, independent like Video Connections have filled the niche of those who want to rent a DVD today but aren’t exactly looking for the latest release. It also helps the independents that they aren’t restricted by the 28-day waiting period that movie production companies have imposed on Netflix and Redbox for new-release rentals. So, they can get titles in sooner than the current DVD rental behemoths. Let’s forget that helpful staff members and free popcorn helps to bring people in, as well.

Twilight Video
No this store isn’t dedicated to all things Twilight. It is another independent video rental store in Washington state. (Why does Washington state have all these independent video stores?)  The store has over 3000 titles in stock and rents games, as well as DVD’s. If you want to own a DVD, Twilight also sells new and used titles. There are also snacks for sale, so you can watch your favorite film without having to starve.

TLA Video
TLA stands for Theater of the Living Arts and this started out as an experimental theater group in Philadelphia in the 1960’s, then evolved into a movie theater that played art house films and classics like Metropolis and Black Orpheus. In the 1980’s as VCR’s (that stands for videocassette recorders in case you are not a member of Generation X or older) became more popular, they branched out into the video rental business. While TLA had popular films, like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, it didn’t forget its roots, since it had a great selection of foreign films and independent films. In fact, the business was so successful that the movie theater closed and management turned its focus to video. In its heyday, there were six stores in the Philadelphia and one in New York City.

Yet, unlike Video Connections and Twilight Video, the bricks and mortar part of TLA’s business is closing and it video library will soon be available online, both as physical DVD’s and as streaming. Call me an old fashioned rube, but I felt sad when I heard TLA’s stores were closing. I often visited a TLA store in Bryn Mawr, PA (a Philadelphia suburb) and found the selection to be better than Tower Records & Video and the staff to be very friendly and knowledgeable. So, I wish the staff of all TLA’s stores well, wherever life takes them.

So, there are some physical locations were you can rent a DVD from real live people. If only there were more of them. Oh well, there’s always the library.

Sources:
http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/aug/27/people-still-like-to-rent-video-by-hand-people-sti/

http://www.twilightvideorentals.com/

http://www.tlavideo.com/company/aboutus.cfm?v=1&sn=3809&g=0

http://articles.philly.com/2011-08-11/news/29876641_1_tla-video-video-stores-movie