DENNIS SEID: Another slice of Americana disappearing

Back in the early 1980s, we got our first VCR. The technology was the equivalent of today’s high-def, flat-screen TV. It was state-of-the-art.
The VCR – an RCA, I believe – was the top-loading, pop-up kind with the faux wood panel inserts.
Fancy, I tell you.
And it had a remote – the kind that had a 6-foot cord attached to a play/stop button.
Soon, our house would be full of the latest gadgets. Months later, the VCR was joined by a Betamax.
Then I got an Atari XL home computer with a whopping 16 KB of RAM. We were convinced that the Commodore 64 was more powerful than we’d ever need.
And yes, we had an Atari 2600 game console, too. Actually, it was the Sears-branded model, but it worked just the same. When I got bored, I went to my friend’s house and played on his ColecoVision.
We soon replaced our rotary phones with those new-fangled push-button ones, too. In avocado green and in beige, of course.
Trips to Sears were needed to get the video games. I can’t remember if TG&Y or Howard’s carried them.
But when the first video store opened in our town, it was an event. Others quickly followed. A store that rents AND sells movies? Brilliant!
Walking into the stores was a new experience every time. Who knew there were so many movies you could rent for a few bucks?
But you had to have one of those special “memberships” in order to rent those movies. In return, you got a nicely laminated card with your name, address and phone number.
The really fancy video stores even had drive-through windows. And tanning beds.
Through the years, we’ve taken those places for granted. Go in, find a movie or three, return them on time or pay a late fee. The business model rolled along nicely.
Then came Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery and others, including many more independents.
But the industry has changed drastically.
Just seven years ago, there were more than 25,000 stores selling and renting DVDs, VHS movies and video games, with revenues totaling nearly $12 billion according to Los Angeles-based research company IBIS World.
Today, there are about 17,000, and revenue will fall below $8 billion this year.
Walmart has taken a huge chunk of sales from those video stores, and Netflix and Redbox have made chopped away at their rental income. Satellite and cable users can order movies directly, too.
No wonder Blockbuster has lost $1.1 billion since 2008 and has closed more than 1,000 stores.
The company’s trying to get out of leases on 500 of its remaining 3,400 stores. And bankruptcy is imminent, experts say.
Hollywood, which merged with Movie Gallery a few years ago, shuttered in February. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Within a generation we’ll all be streaming videos to our phones, game consoles and TVs.
Yes, the days of the video store are slowly but surely nearing an end, another piece of Americana that will live on as a fond memory.

Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

DENNIS SEID / NEMS Daily Journal