Video Store Day: Slight Preamble to VSD IV

October 20, 2014 | By

Why’s this slick dude smiling? Check out a future post on Video Store Day.


This past Saturday was International Independent Video Store Day, and if the posts at the official IIVSD Facebook page are any indication, the campaign was successful in attracting some attention to the industry, boosting foot traffic, and adding a few new stores to the existing tally of shops that exist outside of North America.

A pessimist would argue the celebration is preaching to the converted – customers who already buy & rent stock from local shops, not those who’ve switched to Netflix and Amazon for cheap rentals and deep discount pricing, respectively – but an optimist would note how VSD went from a variation of Record Store Day in its early years to something more reflective of its own industry, reminding movie fans and the studios that there’s still an alternative to online streaming.

The limited selection of big box stores and their and conscious effort to stock only what’s necessary and immediately sellable means indie shops (online, and bricks & mortar) are one of the the main resources for film fans to acquire catalogue, specialty, and niche titles on disc.  The fact some labels are wiling to deal directly with stores and circumvent distributors removes the middle man and makes pricing more competitive.

Yes, there’s Amazon, but there’s one edge stores have over online outlets: if a customer gets to hold what they want, knowing they can have it right now, half the battle’s won, plus the money spent goes towards a local business, and there’s no doubt local shops are in the most challenging phase of their existence.

Toronto lost two rental shops in 2014, with a third set to close in early 2015 after its owner decided to extend its stay into the holiday season. Last year’s winter – cold, icy, and frankly quite shitty – didn’t help merchants in general, because when it’s really nasty outside, the customer instinct is to hunker down and make do until the sun comes out.

There’s also the perception of an industry that’s often presumed dead because Blockbuster’s implosion was so expansive. ‘I didn’t think video stores existed anymore?’ is a really, really common reaction, and it’s bolstered by the reality that the corner or mall shop that used to pepper every suburban development is long gone – be it in Canada, the neighboring U.S., or Australia. Toronto’s downtown core is blessed with several stores, but their concentration is largely in the west end. 

Some may view video stores as a novelty rather than a niche industry – something absurd in an era where so much content’s been digitized and is readily available from large corporate labels an sites.

It’s also a battle against being perceived as archaic, yet offering wares and services that are physical and done face-to-face, respectively – a process that’s not really weird or outmoded considering many still buy clothes, groceries, shoes, or a car in person. You know – getting out, and through social interaction, getting what you want from a human.

Perhaps the term Shop Local is more important than ever, getting consumers to reacquaint themselves with viewing and buying options that have been around for some time.

I’ve posted a tally of shops within Toronto that rent and sell videos, but if you check out the full list at the official VSD website, you’ll see listings for Canada, the U.S., and International shops.

You may have seen the video Inside Scarecrow Video: The Largest Independent Video Store in the World (2013), a two-level shop carrying a wealth of material that’s available for rental, some of which never migrated from tape to disc. The argument that stores have become rare archives of marginalized and forgotten film and TV history isn’t false, nor unique to Seattle, WA, but in an effort to keep the store and its collection alive, Scarecrow Video has become a non-profit archive which, as this piece details, is a bold new experiment:



As the recent docs Rewind This! and Adjust Your Tracking revealed, chunks of classic and cult material remain unavailable, except in the formats that launched the home video business – tape (VHS, Betamax), and later disc (Laserdisc, CED) – and it’s a very real fear that as more people believe all that’s available online is what’s worth watching, a hunk of film history will cease to circulate, except as pricey MOD discs, or perhaps rips from battered & bruised videotapes.

If you manage to find a rarity on YouTube, take a good look at what you’re watching – the compression, the loss of detail, the ads, the wobbly sound, the improper ratio. Whether it’s free content of dubious quality or downloaded files that can only be played using proprietary software on a limited number of machines you own, that’s a terrible way to enjoy movies.


Wrapping Up

In a follow-up post, I’ll have another scanned catalogue from a local video store, circa 1986, and some related ephemera.

I’m finishing up on several reviews and interviews for this week, some of which were originally slated for last week but were held back when an early bird film festival deadline mandated wrapping up the sound design for a (finally) completed short, Liquid Puppetry.

There are no behind-the-scenes stills or test shorts, but in early 2015 I’ll do something related to the cameras used in the film. Some of the short’s imagery is similar to the feedback used in my recently posted Ceiri Torjussen podcast, but the weird globs in Liquid Puppetry were actually created in part by exploiting a defect in the camera, not re-loping through a video mixer.

Also coming: my imminent podcast with The Signal (2014) composer Nima Fakhrara will feature some interesting discussions on the score’s unique sound and instruments, plus some background visuals tied to the score’s electronic elements.

Also coming in the next week: is an interview with director / composer / meticulous sound designer Dante Tomaselli. I reviewed his recent and highly atmospheric CD The Doll for an upcoming issue of  Rue Morgue (methinks its slated for the November issue), and in tandem with the Q&A I’ll post a review of his latest film, Torture Chamber (2013).

Lastly, you may have noticed a Q&A with composer Fabio Frizzi regarding his upcoming Halloween concert (Frizzi 2 Fulci) at London’s The Barbican. In November I’ll post links to the full podcast interview, divided into two very meaty chunks. Prior to that, however, I’ll post my Q&A with sound engineer Mint Audio Restoration‘s Richard Moore, who worked on the recent release of Roy Budd’s Phantom of the Opera score for CD and DVD release. (A Q&A with the composer’s widow Sylvia Budd is archived at my Rue Morgue blog.)




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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