Be Variety, Rewind: The Days of Video Rental Retailers on the UWS

Be Kind, Rewind: The Days of Video Rental Shops on the UWS

Gone? Sure … lengthy gone. It’s possible you’ll keep in mind video rental shops of the 1980s and ’90s; maybe watching films {that a} mother or father introduced residence to get you thru a number of sick days from faculty. Or hanging out with mates and cracking up over screwball comedies you’d all watched ten occasions earlier than. Or delving right into a dialogue along with your accomplice concerning the which means of an outdated Italian Fellini movie you by no means actually understood.

A rental was one thing you’d decide up on the way in which residence from faculty or work. It was enjoyable and straightforward and held the promise of an escapist night with Rambo, a weekend with John Travolta in Grease, getting up shut and private with the blokes from Godfather, feeling weepy over Al Pacino in A Scent of a Girl, falling in love with Jack Nicolson in As Good because it Will get, or having fun with a very good scare watching Rear Window.

Rental movies drew us away from film theaters. You’d end up looking cabinets for a latest film you simply missed or needed to observe once more. You may also be hoping for the good discovery.

Documentary filmmaker Susan Farkas and Historian Richard Lieberman are avid film-watchers who stay simply two blocks from the storefront Champagne Video as soon as occupied at 217 West 79th Avenue. Susan remembers how “Going there and roaming the aisles was a pleasant ritual. Sometimes we knew exactly which VHS tape we wanted, sometimes we browsed until something caught our eye. I don’t really remember how the tapes were categorized. Comedies? Adult (ie. porn)? Foreign? There were always other people there roaming around the small store so it had a nice community feel to it, and I remember feeling sad when it closed.” Richard remembers braving lengthy strains on weekends.

Finally, the craze for films on video prompted some folks to purchase somewhat than wait for prime demand movies to turn into accessible. Lots of people bought them at locations like Tower Information on 66th and Broadway. ”The shop has been a madhouse since Christmas,” Tower Information supervisor instructed the NY Instances in a 1985 article.

Video rental outlets had an understated social side; most individuals simply exchanged pleasant nods. However, some even ended up marrying fellow browsers whereas scanning the cabinets for a title. Schmoozing with the often very educated clerks was not simply pure enjoyable; it additionally helped keep away from getting caught with a loser. Studying transient descriptions tacked onto show cabinets or trying out promotional posters displayed across the retailer additionally helped within the resolution making course of.

However a fast suggestion from a clerk who’d most likely seen all the pieces 1,000,000 occasions, since films had been at all times enjoying within the retailer, was method higher than an digital trailer.

Some video rental shops, the smaller ones, would take your identify and put it on a ready listing, calling you when the video you requested for got here in. They’d go away a message in your answering machine in the event you weren’t residence. This was all pre-cell. Odd to suppose you’ve out-lived the start and the tip of a selected expertise. VCR’s and VHS tapes at the moment are one thing of the previous.

Pluses of rental movies? They had been low cost, and VCR’s had been comparatively cheap and really simple to make use of. To start with, it appeared close to miraculous to have the ability to go to a neighborhood video retailer and produce residence a pair or three movies of outdated films, or choose from various pretty new releases. You had a number of decisions and in contrast to going to see a flick at a movie show, watching a rental at residence meant you may pause it. The pause was an enormous benefit, accommodating rest room breaks, snack refills and permitting area for receiving and making telephone calls, and even strolling the canine. Additionally, you may rewind to catch a missed sentence or savor a selected scene.

Video shops diversified so much in character, starting from grungy to mother and pop informal, even pretty disorganized, to spic and span, brightly lit and to the purpose. Some outlets had a modest variety of choices, whereas others, like Film Place on 105th and Broadway, boasted a really staggering 24,000 titles.

Movie Place UWS

Film Place closed in 2006. In the present day, former proprietor Gary Dennis is an NYC tour information! Take a look at his digital UWS tour and his web site at

Some video shops, like 72nd Avenue Picture Inc, supplied perks like free supply to those that bought a membership.

Video renters had their very own private favourite outlets. Trying again to the 1980s, one former buyer of Video to Go on 88th and Broadway wrote into the NY Instances about having fun with watching rented movies together with his younger youngsters, like Previous Yeller and Mary Poppins. Years later, strolling down Columbus Avenue in 2018, the identical buyer bumped into the clerk who had as soon as managed the leases. He requested, “Didn’t you once work at Videos to Go?” The person responded with the client’s telephone quantity “Seven-nine-nine, four-oh nine-oh.” This was the way in which video outlets had saved observe of renters and leases. The previous buyer recalled  appreciating this clerk’s leniency in regard to charging late return charges. With reference to video returns, many will keep in mind the stickers which inspired renters to “Be Kind, Rewind.”  

From the small store video leases advanced the Blockbuster shops on 69th and Amsterdam Ave and 94th and Broadway; inflated, tremendous clear suburban-like emporiums of video leases. An enormous plus was that copies on newly launched movies had been accessible in massive numbers. You often didn’t have to attend for a duplicate, as a result of almost definitely your film can be accessible.

What occurred? The tip of VCRs and VHS tapes got here with the intro of DVDs and the early Netflix leases of those feather mild discs that could possibly be ordered, delivered and popped into the mail  for return in little sq. purple envelopes. And shortly, after streaming took over the world – you may watch a film any time of the day in your telephone, pill, laptop or TV.

What was your favourite UWS video retailer? Inform us within the feedback!

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