You Miss Video Stores (Even If You Won’t Admit It)

Netflix still has its DVD mailing service, which has 93,000 titles as of 2015, but a lot of people have forgotten it exists because it’s only available in the U.S. and “doesn’t even have a marketing budget.” Netflix so aggressively doesn’t give a shit about its DVD branch that in 2011, they tried to rebrand it as “Qwikster” — a move so half-assed that they failed to claim the “Qwikster” Twitter handle, which embarrassingly belonged to a teenage pothead.

Most frustratingly, a lot of movies that are available on physical media are nowhere to be found in the digital realm. Screenwriter and podcaster John August looked into this, discovering that of the top 200 highest-grossing movies between 1999 and now, around 120 weren’t available online. Which, unless you’re really jonesin’ to watch Basic Instinct 2, isn’t too bad. But the further back in time you go, the worse things get. Looking at the top titles beginning in the 1970s, there was a “growing mountain of missing movies.”

Part of the problem is that while physical media sits around unchanged (unless it’s sneakily burgled by George Lucas), streaming services are subject to licensing agreements. Meaning that, as was famously the case with iTunes, even a movie you buy digitally might mysteriously disappear one day.

Plus, Netflix’s success means that now everyone wants to be Netflix, forcing them to keep pouring money into original content because studios like Disney are pulling titles in order to launch their own streaming services. Warner Bros. is getting into the streaming game too — which, to the chagrin of movie nerds everywhere, led to the death of the classic movie streaming platform FilmStruck. Celebrities like Guillermo del Toro and Leonardo DiCaprio rallied to save the site, to no avail. Which begs the question: Why not throw some support behind video stores, guys?

Related: 5 Apocalyptic Realities Working At A Modern Day Blockbuster

Remember how we said video stores had gone the way of the dinosaur? That’s not exactly true — unless you’re thinking of those dinosaurs that continue to exist in theme parks or who solve crimes alongside Whoopi Goldberg. Hagen put together a map of all the video stores still in operation. And guess what? There’s still a shitload of them!

Google MapsIt’s double weird when you realize that Family Video — the RC Cola to Blockbuster’s Coke — is the last chain standing.

So could we be at the beginning of a video store resurgence? Recently, beloved theater chain Alamo Drafthouse started installing old-school video stores inside certain locations. And if you need further proof that video stores were a valuable, enriching experience, just last year, Netflix launched a virtual reality video store, so you can access movies just like you used to, albeit with worse selection and a creepy Polar Express-like vibe.

So if you live near one of these existing video stores, why not pop by? And don’t just go to line your pockets with complimentary popcorn. Actually rent something, goddammit.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter, or check out the podcast Rewatchability.

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