No history this time, folks; just a story. A story of a time when entertainment wasn’t on tap, when anyone wanting to watch a movie either had to go to the cinema (ew), wait for it to be shown on tv (double ew) or head down to that ghost of the recent past, the video shop.
Yes, the video shop. That popcorn scented, perennially 1994 fortress of all things rewindable. Rest in peace, you beautiful icon.
Limited copies of each film encouraged either sharing and generosity or outright violence. If you and that neighbour you were feuding with both wanted to hire the one copy of Dunston Checks In, it was on for young and old. If your sleepover lived or died by whether or not Scream 2 could make an appearance, you were sweating the entire way to the horror section. In fact, many kids sweated their way through the horror section every time anyway, adorned as it was by some of the freakiest and most confronting video box artwork around.
But we’re here to talk about one video shop in particular: Video Revesby. Too cheap to join the Video Ezy conga line, VR simply borrowed the homophonic melody of its name and hoped no one would think too hard about it. It was Revesby, no chance of that.
And when I, one of the great non thinkers of his time, wandered in on a rainy Sunday afternoon to rent Alien, names lost all meaning. The Movietime aroma, wide eyed glares from the horror tapes and the cacophony coming from the arcade room overwhelmed my senses.
I started towards the horror section, determined to end the trilogy which for me had begun with Channel 10’s showing of Alien 3 weeks before, followed closely by multiple viewings of another video shop’s copy of Aliens to the point of risking the tape’s structural integrity. Would the answers to my many questions be locked within the strangely-white-and-not-transparent video case before me?
And how long would my inevitable detour to the arcade section prevent that from happening?
Such was the gravity of a trip to the video shop. While I grappled with these existential dilemmas, my brother marched to the children’s section and snatched the same Muppet Babies tape he always got. Wasn’t he tired of it yet?
Years later, he’d march in and snatch drums of chlorine for the pool. Video Revesby died in its sleep sometime in the early 2000s, replaced unceremoniously by a more evergreen entertainment solution. Pools won’t be replaced by streaming anytime soon.
The last time I can remember going into Video Revesby, it was an after-school adventure to watch a friend play Street Fighter Alpha 2. When another guy challenged and lost, things got heated and we left, desperately hoping his street fighting skills were limited to joysticks and buttons. I wonder if such confrontations ever happen in the pool shop.
And then the whole enterprise was forgotten for years, covered up by the pool shop owner’s steadfast refusal to paint over the Video Revesby signage. This spendthrift decision was followed by another: to use the cheapest material available when making the pool shop’s signs.
The video fad may be dead, but if we know anything it’s this: signage is forever.