OPINION: Bring back the video store!

Netflix is out and video rental stores are in. Illustration by Gillian Palacios / el Don

Standing in front of a video rental counter, dressed in tattered bedazzled Skechers and a white and blue school uniform, my 8-year-old self was beaming with joy. At last, I had snatched the last rental disk of Barbie: A Fairy Secret. The feel of it in my hands was glorious

Somewhere within a local dingy video rental store lived a maze of horror, action, comedy and romance with an isle of dreams—pink, shimmery Barbie dreams—that allowed me to yippee in a way that no other streaming service has since.

Alas, the people of Netflix have tried–and failed to reproduce that magic. Miserably. Embarrassingly, almost. With insane price increases and a new rule that claims users must be under the same internet in order to share a Netflix account across different devices, the state of film and television consumerism is in shambles.

So as the conductor of the Netflix hate train, I officially declare (boldly, might I add) that it’s time we dump Netflix and their baggage, and instead get on our knees and grovel for the return of video rental stores, who are like the ex that got away.

I should call him. 

For those of you still baby faced and culturally inept, video rentals stores were places that allowed people to check out DVDs at the low price of $2.99 for newer films and $1.99 for the older films. With prices like that, what is there not to feel joy over?

Some may argue that with Netflix being accessible on all kinds of devices, video rental stores are a fling of the past. However, people did not go to video rental stores for accessibility–they went for the experience. 

I dare you to try to name another place where you can go for a copy of Final Destination 5 and end up with a disc of some local rapper’s mixtape they recorded in their closet instead. Oh wait, you can’t. 

Local video rental stores fostered a sense of community between film connoisseurs and casual film watchers. Think of how many movies you would’ve missed out on in your lifetime if it weren’t for the 17-year-old Taranti-nerd behind the counter explaining to your parents that taking home six DVDs was better than the one because then you’d have options! 

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If it wasn’t for my local video rental store, I don’t think I would have ever bared witness to the cultural significance that Shrek (en Español) would have on the masses.

Not for nothing, video rental stores are making a comeback in L.A. Just last year, Vidiots, a locally loved DVD rental store in Los Angeles founded by women, was reopened after the store was shut down in 2017 amidst rent increases and neighborhood changes. It joins Videthéque, CineFile Video, and GoVideo as some of the only video rental stores that have outlived Netflix’s terrorization of the film industry.

Vidiots’s return to the Los Angeles scene was momentous for DVD fanatics, primarily because its comeback would have never been possible without the support of big name studios like A24 and Sony Pictures, Hollywood Stars like Aubrey Plaza, locals and cinephiles who couldn’t bear to let the art of watching DVD movies die.

But in O.C. not so much. In trying to find a local video rental store to recommend, Yelp’s Top Ten Best Video Rental Stores near Orange County led me down a rabbit hole of nothing but blurry images and “backrooms.” 

So while we may not have an Aubrey Plaza in Orange County (yet), or A24, we do have locals and we do have cinephiles (me) who would love to see our local video rental stores take their rightful places on street corners.

Now go grab your favorite movie lover, popcorn bucket, and Blu-ray—and hit the picket line, because Netflix is out and local video rentals are back in. 

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