The Blockbuster Video franchise has fallen like a moth to the mighty hand of net-friendly rental outfits like Netflix, making the trip to the video store a dinosaur in its own right. This dinosaur isn’t CGI, nor is it a practical effect; it’s a social happening that’s spelling disaster for big video rental conglomerates. Yet it is the phenomenon pushing loyal devotees back to locally owned and operated movie chains. And the comeback couldn’t be sweeter.
Years ago, Blockbuster was stealing their business. The fashionable ability to rent more high-end films drew suburban families to their catch-all outfits, similar to Wal-mart and the like. Why not be able to rent two Olsen twins movies while putting a new release on hold for dad. Your only commitment being to rewind. Mom and pop stores were feeling the pressure and praying for a changing of the celluloid guard, as it were. And it came in the form of a double-agent.
The Internet, while stealing customers away from the under-appreciated Louisiana chain Major Video, did in fact slay Blockbuster. Now, the playing field was even and local consumers weren’t fooled or coerced into going for the more acceptable membership card, but instead were looking to fill the void of hard-to-find titles from their neighbors. The video geek was resurrected from the ashes and they all came back to this haven of beauty located on Veterans Highway, in Metairie, LA, with two other allied locations in the French Quarter.
Major Video is the only video store in the state -arguably, the south as a whole- that offers a CULT movies section. Not only do they offer it for your viewing pleasure, but it dominates the entrance of the space. Over 400 titles alone litter the shelves, ranging from John Waters’ “Polyester” to more mainstream friendly fare like “Bad Taste”, directed by Peter Jackson. Ease the eyes, you’ll find no “Runaway Bride” here. They house their titles like they’re protecting valuable works of art; masterpieces forgotten by the “Pretty Woman” crowd, yet remembered by time. Embracing the offbeat content and the bad production value of these brilliant motion pictures like the church crowd reveres the Sistene Chapel.
Its exclusivity for students of film, nostalgically pleading for the strange and the bizarre, makes it an elitist operation. They’re such purists, that they refuse to brandish the Cult haven with any form of DVDs. VHS tapes “sustain the time of these films… they look bad on purpose and if that’s not the given way to watch Todd Haynes’ ‘Superstar: Karen Carpenter Story’, I don’t what is…”, comments an anonymous employee. They’re all closet video geeks, wearing their desire for third or fourth generation quality tapes like a badge of honor beneath their suburban guise. They openly criticize customer choices at the register and debate about the romantic undertone of E. Elias Merhige’s ‘Begotten’ while they restock. They’re my heroes and my peers.
After months of Blockbuster’s desperate attempts to regain their clientele with the pseudo ‘end of late fees’ campaign, the Major Video staff have no fears for their business. They expect big returns when ‘Sin City’ hits their shelves in the coming weeks and prepare to start making Atari, Nintendo, and their respective retro games available for the public through weekly rentals.
Fans of all types: the bad, the weird, the rare, and the rest -should sleep a little better come nightfall, knowing that they’re not alone in their local economy. The geeks have replaced mom and pop, defended the borders of The Big Easy against Blockbuster, and welcomed the allied relationship of Netflix. They’ll continue to offer the little undiscovered gems of film history and stand up for their right to treat Julia Roberts fans like dangerous invaders coming for their children. As long as it doesn’t go to fisticuffs, they’ll out-debate, out-complain, and out-theorize just about anyone who dares to try and question their core of what society has deemed ‘bad movies’.
Their products have earned a shelf-life, and so have they.