The screen is fading to black. The credits are about to roll. Brookfield’s Video Ezy, my local video store, is closing down.
It’s the end of an era. I realise what a dinosaur I have become. Who still goes to the video store?
I do. A friend called me a dinosaur just the other day as we stood alongside the depleted shelves at Video Ezy and talked about how the world has changed.
Empowered by faster internet speeds and better technology, online viewing is creeping out from the shadows. A once dodgy alternative is becoming increasingly legal, increasingly mainstream. The future of home entertainment is just a mouse-click away.
Yet here I am, Mr Dinosaur, still trundling down to the video store most weeks.
Video rentals have been a big part of my life ever since my dad brought home a VHS player in the school holidays, a large metal box that we painstakingly tuned into the TV via the aerial cable. He hired Monty Python and The Holy Grail and showed us the Black Knight getting his arms chopped off. Ah, the clunk and whirr of cassettes, the madcap scrawl of fast-forward, the white noise of dirty video lines falling down the screen.
DVDs eventually came along with their higher quality and their frustrating tendency to scratch and skip. Then Blu-ray. It too will be superseded, but for now I love its gorgeous clarity.
It is for aesthetic reasons that I have traditionally resisted online viewing. I prefer to give films and television shows the best possible chance to woo me with their visual artistry. Why would anyone want to craft a piece of entertainment with exquisite care only to have the audience watch it with muddy sound and blocky resolution? It would be like Beethoven debuting his Ninth Symphony on a transistor radio.
But that is a dying argument because online quality is less of an issue these days.
I suppose the writing has been on the video store wall for a while. Still, it was a shock to walk into Video Ezy a few weeks ago and see their stock on sale. Like the Tin Woodsman I knew I had a heart because I could feel it breaking. Like Ron Burgundy I found myself in a glass case of emotion. My local video store, my go-to source for nearly any film I could think of, was closing down.
Last Saturday they started selling all the new releases. A mob waited outside for the doors to open. I felt sad and hurt on behalf of the store to see all the opportunists, myself included, scavenging among the leftovers of two decades of local business.
My children have more or less grown up at Brookfield Video Ezy. Over the last 10 years they have giggled their way through every Fireman Sam, every interminable Dora The Explorer and every Scooby-Doo on the shelves. We very rarely go to the movies. We hardly ever watch TV. We don’t have SKY. We go to Video Ezy.
The staff have been part of the journey. They got to know the regulars by our phone numbers and we got to know them as the friendly faces on the other side of the counter. There was the girl who left for a career in radio, the guy whose Maori name means ‘beautiful’, the girl who reminds me of Julia Stiles and the guy who, for at least a whole year, genuinely thought I was called by my wife’s name because she had originally signed up our membership.
Interesting times. The way we consume film and television is changing. It’s not the end of the world, it’s the start of a new one. I’m not entirely sure what I will do now. Adjust to the new world I suppose.
Thanks for all the entertainment, Video Ezy. We will miss you when you’re gone. It was a beautiful friendship.
First published in Bay of Plenty Times 27 February 2015. Reproduced with permission.