Lost forever – the video shop

Robert McLaughlin

Rob takes a fond look back at the video shop experience...

Published on Jun 25, 2009

As a kid of the 1980s and never really liking sport, climbing trees, or going out, for that matter, one of the biggest pleasures in life was the video shop. They have, over the past decade become something of a rarity, with only Blockbuster really still having a presence on the high street. However, back in the '80s there were so many independent video shops that you were spoilt for choice.

Thinking back to my little market town in the English Midlands where I grew up, there must have been at least six, and this was a suburban town, a drowsy historical place just north of Birmingham, so how could such a place sustain so many video rental places?

Well, think back; the '80s was a much more barren time for entertainment. Multiplex cinemas were just beginning to arrive, Sky had only just started and nobody really had it, multi-channel television was new, slightly dodgy (see KYTV) and had not got the polished form of delivery it has today.

Technology too was a huge stumbling block; the internet was something that the occasional 386 user would have as a gimmick while the rest of the teen population was battling over whether the Atari ST or Amiga was better; there was no way that a film, or a trailer even could have been downloaded via a 56k modem. The '80s was a time without torrents, iPlayer or QuickTime and seems now, with such easy access to technology, aeons ago.

So, with no other forms of entertainment, the video shop reigned supreme. Video rental shops were cheap, easy to get to and had a simple set of rules (bring back before six) and if you could stand the fact that they had a tendency to smell of cigarette smoke, a local video store provided film-hungry teens, like myself, a whole Aladdin's cave of fun.

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