Parenting

No more video stores: Are kids missing out?

After watching his daughters rent a movie On Demand, Ian gets nostalgic for the days of video rental stores.

Photo: RonTech2000/iStockphoto

Last weekend, our girls wanted to rent a movie.

Neither of them had thrown a tantrum in the 90 minutes leading up to the request, so their behavior seemed to warrant a movie rental.

Elissa grabbed the remote control and immediately went to Channel 100 — which is home to the On-Demand movies. She found the kids movie section and started scrolling through the list of options with a disturbing amount of poise, calmness and accuracy.

“Seen it.”

“Seen it.”

“Own it.”

“Too scary.”

“Seen it.”

“Don’t want to watch it.”

Within two minutes, she found a movie that both she and Lily agreed on, and she proceeded to order it through the remote control. Sadly, I am so lazy that I have not changed the default password for our On-Demand rentals, so the kids know they can just press “0-0-0-0” and they can order anything from Disney movies to UFC pay-per-view events. (Somebody please remind me to change that password before they become teenagers.)

Watching them make this selection so quickly and easily from the sofa made me nostalgic for the old days of actually going to the video store to rent a movie. There was nothing better than walking into a video store with that amazing feeling of excitement and anticipation. And then within five minutes, having that enthusiasm replaced by tension because nobody could actually agree on a movie. I will honestly miss the sight of families arguing in public at a Blockbuster Video.

When I was a kid, my family would roll into the video store and split off into different directions. I would head for the video game section, clinging to the faintest hope that my parents would rent me Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.  My sister would head off to the thriller/horror section, hoping that one of her latest V.C. Andrews novels had somehow been turned into a movie. And my parents would wander around the store aimlessly until they found some lame Kurt Russell/Goldie Hawn movie that was suitable for all of us.

Of course, our family would often arrive at the video store after 7 p.m. on a Friday night, so most of the good movies were already rented. As a result, we were the ones lifting up each individual clam-shell case in the ‘New Release’ section to see if the movie was actually there. And most times, the best movies were already gone.

When you were done watching the movie at home, there was always the drama of trying to return it into the slot before being slapped with an overdue charge the next day. And there was also the awful feeling of being halfway to the video store and realizing that you had failed to heed the instruction “Be kind and rewind” — putting you at further risk for a charge.

In the late 1990s, my girlfriend and I used to go to the video store and, much to my chagrin, she would immediately bolt for the rom-com section. I knew it was a pointless battle; either way we were walking out of that store with a Hugh Grant movie, in which he plays a bumbling — but charming — Englishman. And yes, despite her poor movie taste, that girlfriend became my wife.

Now that we have kids, it would have been fun to take them to the video store as a family. In a weird way, I feel sad to think that I’ll never have another heated video store argument with a loved one.