My video store shut down. Two Tuesdays ago I rented, blithely shrugging off the opportunity to redeem my frequent-renter points and even asking the proprietor a question about how they worked. Grinning as usual, he confirmed that the points could be redeemed for a midweek two-for-one rental. Such a deal! I looked forward to using them.
On that Thursday, when I returned my movies, City Video was gone. Shut down. In the process of being stripped of its tapes, discs and shelves. The owner was inside, grinning as usual, this time confirming for me that he was not moving or renovating: This was the end. I could feel the frequent-renter cards in my right back pocket sag in disappointment, never to fulfill their purpose.
“I knew business was down,” a former store worker said, “and he wasn’t doing anything to revitalize.”
The movies, some of them hard-to-find gems, were auctioned together on eBay, due for a store in Maine — ostensibly in a rural pocket somehow safe from Blockbuster and Netflix, the competitors driving mom and pop video stores out of commission and now turning on each other. The corpses of both will be eaten by broadband Internet access and vomited as video on demand.
In the short years before that happens, Eddie Shaw and Brad Chapman have fled their jobs in the ruins of City Video to build their own niche at Movies on a Menu, at 148 Massachusetts Ave. in Arlington. They sell DVDs, which may not be a long-lasting option, but are trying to create a destination as well, with movie memorabilia, books, baked goods and, best of all, a front room with a giant flat-screen television and comfortable chairs. People are meant to come and watch. Organized screenings are on the way.
Movies on a Menu will have to anticipate the changes in the industry, guessing direction and timing perfectly to survive. The baked goods are pedestrian and the concept uncertain, but the place is handsome and worth supporting, just like City Video and its mom and pop siblings. In a world increasingly composed of Internet connections and isolation, it’s something real and comfortable, a place of conversation, relaxation and enlightenment.
In the meantime, with City Video gone for rentals, I’ve switched to the only slightly less convenient Hollywood Express. For as long as it, too, lasts, I guess.