Sunday, February 8, 2015

A reminder of the state of video stores

These days, the only things you can reliably expect to find at a video store are the most popular movies released theatrically between six and 12 months ago. Anything else is a crapshoot.

But you'd think that if there are any older movies you'd be able to reliably find, the Star Wars movies would be them.

I found out otherwise yesterday at Network Video, formerly Video Ezy, in Flemington.

As I wrote in this post, I am doing a bit of a Star Wars challenge in 2015 -- watching one of the six existing movies, in the order of the story's chronology, during each of the two-month segments of this year, leading up to the release of The Force Awakens in December.

Well, hoping to do it, anyway -- pending the availability of the movies.

I stopped by Network Video yesterday in the hopes of scooping up Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, which would rent for a mere $1.90 for an entire week. I'd probably try to watch it on one of the next three nights and return it on Tuesday when I had an easy opportunity to do so.

Except it wasn't in. In fact, unless someone else is doing the same challenge I am, I suspected that they didn't carry it at all. A suspicion confirmed a few moments later when I asked the clerk.

"Yeah, we just have two of them. Whichever two are there."

Those two were The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith, episodes V and III.

A rather random assortment of Star Wars movies. They are arguably the best of their respective trilogies, but I'm sure that has nothing to do with why Network is carrying them.

My guess is that they had all six at one point, but the other four were never returned by someone who rented them, and they just never bothered to replace them.

It's a pretty bottom-line decision. We carry movies that either a) we rent consistently, or b) we already have in our collection. And if one from group a) no longer falls into group b), well, it's gone and forgotten.

It makes sense, but offends my basic instincts toward completism. A Star Wars collection at a video store should look more or less like the one in the picture above, not the two lonely DVDs resting on their sides that I saw yesterday.

Now I am actually worried whether I can get The Phantom Menace at all before my self-imposed February 28th deadline. iTunes doesn't carry it either.

Fortunately, I just now looked at the good old library, and believe I have successfully reserved myself a copy that I can pick up at my local branch.

It shouldn't be so hard to get your hands on one of the biggest financial successes in the history of movies, though, should it?

Then again, if we're talking "should" and "shouldn't," we also "shouldn't" be in a time when video stores are about to go extinct entirely.

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