The Last Video Store is a wonderful look at persistence and love of a format that appears to be on its way out. If there were more places like this little store on a side street in Bristol, we would be the richer for it.
This was meant to be a review that had a number of short films in it from the Raindance Film Festival. But this one struck such a cord that it deserved it’s own piece, even if it only runs at 8 minutes.
20th Century Flicks has been open for over 35 years and can call itself one of the oldest video rental stores left in the world. It is also one of the very last in the UK and also possibly the world. Fighting the unrelenting waves of streaming services and the move to the world of digital.
As 20th Century Flicks hints at, there is a chance for growth with that business. The fact that it doesn’t lose money is astounding and as mentioned by their bookkeeper. The reason for that is their two small cinema screens. They also have the loyalist of customers who will rent from them. Even in this horrible pandemic 20th Century Flicks is carrying out a postal service and it is working.
Their gripes about how streaming services work are valid. We get a notification that the next episode or a film is starting in 15 seconds. We have to stop the app from continuing just so we can take in what we have seen. To let it sink and if we are in the company of others to sit and discuss. They are made for the audience to watch and be social with, all forms of film and TV is made this way. We are not mental to sit and watch alone and never discuss with others.
This social side is something that keeps 20th Century Flicks open and the point is really driven home in The Last Video Store. With their massive library of films and knowledgeable staff. There is the chance to pop in, get a rental and chat about cinema, TV whatever. We lose the social side of entertainment (especially at the minute) when our chances of talking to someone else about a film is online. Face to face conversations always trump online conversations. The ebb and flow of an in person conversation allows for that. The fact that this store openly welcomes that is so heartening.
The staff are the type of people you would expect to be working in a video store (earning a living wage btw). They love films. That knowledge and love for cinema and film isn’t lost in The Last Video Store, thanks to the 20,000 catalogued films available for renting. Yes 20,000, which is proudly stated by co-owner Dave as more content than Netflix.
The downside to The Last Video Store? It runs at a mere 8 minutes and I really think there is enough content there to get a good hour out of the past, present and hopeful future of the store. In fact I would love to see a documentary that roamed around the UK (or further afield) and looked for the last remaining video rental stores and told their story. Highlighted them to help keep them open.
They have been going out of business for a long time, but The Last Video Store will evoke nostalgia and a severe sense of loss to what we as audiences have allowed to slip through our hands. That social hub to converse in person with other lovers of film. To discuss that obscure Finnish film with the person who recommended it to you. As someone who used to work in a video store and multiple cinema’s there is nothing better than recommending a film to a customer and for them to return or leave the screen ecstatic over what they have just watched. They are gatekeepers to cinema. They watch more films that they would likely care to admit and that knowledge is useful.
Films that do not find an audience in cinemas or were not even released in cinemas. Eventually find their “cult” following thanks to these staff members in the stores. A small segment in the fantastic In Search of Darkness documentary mentions this. Without videos stores in the 80s and 90s. So many classic horror films that we now know and love would never have gotten their eventual audiences.
Bristol is lucky to have 20th Century Flicks in its city and while it is unlikely. However wouldn’t it be great if every city had something similar? This is a wonderful little documentary that will fill the film fan in you with an abundance of nostalgia. But why should we just remember? Why not try and make a similar style store that is a small cinema and has a place to rent films. Is that a future schematic that could work? Why not combine both and see what happens. It could be the future I would love to see and in The Last Video Store, 20th Century Flicks shows there may be a way.
For more coverage of Raindance 2020 please check out our reviews below:
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