By: ISABELLA CHECHELE
Video rental stores are true relics. If you’ve never set foot in one, your parents probably have many times before. For older generations, going to their local Blockbuster on a Friday night and renting a movie was a treat and a tradition. There’s a sense of magic behind that experience that just doesn’t exist in many places anymore. But as of the last decade, these gateways into the past are closing. And in the near future, they may be gone for good.
Family Video, a popular video rental chain, has announced it will be shutting the doors of 200 locations. The announcement came from a Facebook post made by New Ulm store manager Erick Lemke. Family Video has been around since the 1970s-the company was founded in 1978, and the first store was opened in Springfield, Illinois, with over 500 locations spreading across the U.S. afterwards. Since then, the chain has held up for almost two decades and gained a cult following in the Midwest.
So why is it now going out of business? This is due in part to two factors: one, the already declining popularity of video rental stores since the 90s, and two: the financial struggles COVID-19 has fuelled for every business in the country including Family Video. These factors combined to create the ultimate sledgehammer for destroying the remains of the company and its stores.
This isn’t the first notable cut to video stores. Blockbuster, arguably the most popular video rental chain out there, shut down most of their stores back in 2010. With the rise of streaming services such as Netflix, video stores were becoming less of a commodity for the general public, and couldn’t keep up with the competition.
Only one Blockbuster store in the world is still open today, located in Bend, Oregon, and it doesn’t plan on closing anytime soon due to the amount of recent visitors surging. The store became so popular it even converted itself into an Airbnb location at one point, allowing fans and old customers to spend the night there and take a more special trip down memory lane. There’s also a movie coming out soon titled The Last Blockbuster which is available for pre-order on the Blockbuster website.
Whether you grew up going to video stores or have never heard of them until today, you can agree this is a monumental point in the history of home entertainment. What Family Video’s closure means for the future of CDs vs streaming services is unknown, but whatever happens, it’s clear that this chain will be missed.