Cracking the celluloid ceiling, one day at a time.
Reading time: 1.5 minutes
I wonder how many people nowadays hold membership for their local film rental store. Far fewer than ten years ago, that’s for certain. The practicality of renting or streaming movies from online vendors such as Netflix, LOVEFiLM or iTunes means that film rental shops are slowly dying out. Not exactly breaking news, is it? Every time I’m back in Britain, another Blockbuster venue seems to be in the process of permanently closing its doors. Die-hard rental veterans will be feeling the same pangs of sadness that Roald Dahl surely experienced as he saw the sweet shops of his youth replace gleaming jars of colourful candy with clinically wrapped KitKats and Yorkies.
At the end of the day, movie rental outlets really are quite a lot like those good, old-fashioned sweet shops. Visiting one practically constitutes a proper outing. You can spend as little as half an hour rubbing noses with the shelves, eyeing up toffees or attempting to read DVD-box spines sideways. Horror and liquorice share the same colour swatch of murky purples. There are no tedious chunks of blurb or ingredient lists – just the savvy smile of a shopkeeper who knows his/her stuff. There’s a beauty in the uniformity of it all. And, most importantly, you find yourself surrounded by items which have brought countless other people fat dollops of happiness.
This evening, I trundled down to my local film store. It’s about a five-minute walk away, on a street lined with tall trees. I entered the shop and paused to adjust my eyes to all those gaudy colours beaming from the shelves. This shop is not part of a chain. It’s a small, independent place called Vidéo Club de la Butte and can be found on rue Caulaincourt, on the north side of the Montmartre hill in Paris. It has squeaky wooden floorboards and thousands upon thousands of films from five different continents. A film buff’s paradise.
What makes this vidéoclub even more special, is that it is apparently one of only a dozen that survived the mass cull of other stores like it in Paris. According to this article, 5000 independent film rental shops existed in the French capital of the 1980s; but no longer. It’s pretty depressing, especially if you consider the term used by the French to describe film rental outlets: short and sweet, the word vidéoclub encapsulates not only the concept of hiring out delicious slices of cinema, but also the feeling of a club or community, a place for films to be discussed and celebrated with other like-minded cinéphiles. Inhale the musty smell of dust and plastic. Pull out film cases at random to see if the titles ring a bell. Run your fingers along the shelves just as a child runs a stick across the posts of a fence. Smile excitedly when the guy at the desk tells you “that one’s a corker”, or wince when he whispers that “this one’s a bit bollocks”. Maybe it’s just me getting overly sentimental about my films, but I reckon you’d be hard pressed to experience something anywhere near as pleasant in the black hole of internet movie rentals.
Is there a film rental shop near you at home? Does it have a good selection? Is visiting it a pleasant experience? If yes, get down there and renew your annual membership if you haven’t done so already! I’m well aware that clicking your mouse on the film you want to download this evening is a handy option, but did you honestly not have a single spare moment this week when you could have raced over to the shop, instead? Roald Dahl’s favourite childhood sweet shop is now a Chinese takeaway joint. I’ll be damned if places like Vidéo Club de la Butte go the same way. Let’s close ranks, people!
Photos of the rental shop: Vidéo Club de la Butte’s Facebook profile