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A Cineaste’s Guide to Video Stores

A Cineaste’s Guide to Video Stores

Credits

Feature by: David Carter

Posted on: 17 July 2004

One of the main reasons for this site is to expose our readers to hard-to-find and overlooked films. However, it would pointless to attempt this without helping you locate the films we cover. Beyond any doubt the Internet is the best place to find copies of any film. With the sheer volume of sites dedicated to selling films, it is becoming increasingly difficult to refer to any film as being either “obscure” or “hard-to-find.” Film lovers can log on to eBay 24 hours a day and purchase copies of movies that would have been impossible to find ten years ago. Despite this, most people are not willing to purchase a film they have never seen. The prices of many films we discuss may prevent our readership from investing in them on our word alone. The least expensive and most logical solution is your local video store. This begs the question: Which video stores should I search?

To find the types of films discussed here, your search should begin at an independent video store. The “Mom & Pop” video store, while often small and occasionally dirty, can yield some interesting finds. These stores often have huge stocks of the one of the biggest rental genres: the horror film. Independent video stores often have a ton of unique horror titles that simply cannot be found elsewhere; “horror” is the melting pot of film genres. Independent video stores have a tendency to classify any film with violence, elicit themes, or even an “evil” sounding title in the horror section. The older the video store is the better. Many of these stores have films from all genres that are out-of-print. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask if you can buy a particular rental title. Most stores will be willing to sell a film that hasn’t been rented in a while, and it never hurts to try. You may be able to find a diamond in the rough.

If you are lucky enough to live in a larger city you may have a specialty video store. From my personal observations, these are video stores owned by film lovers who have done the work for you by searching out obscure titles. This type of store is your best bet to finding the largest number of films discussed on this site. Stores such as this often have the largest libraries of foreign films that you will be able to find for rental. Another good source is a non-chain record store. Chances are if a store carries rare vinyl and CD’s, they will have rare films to buy or rent as well. The two interests seem to overlap somewhat. Ethnic stores are a great and often overlooked source as well. Hispanic, Indian, or Asian culture stores often stock the films of their respective countries. Fortunately many stock both dubbed and original language copies of these films.

Once you have exhausted these options, you might want to try some sources that are only for the brave. Adult video stores (and/or porno shops) often also stock a selection of more mainstream, non-pornographic films. Do not be afraid to check these places out. Most of their regular clientele will not be looking for the same type of films, so you stand a good chance of being able to find what you’re looking for. Gay bookstores often stock a good amount of foreign films. Many of Pasolini’s works such as his Trilogy of Life and even Salo can be found in such stores due to their homosexual themes.

The vast majority of people however will only have the chain video stores in their area. My advice on dealing with this hardship is to firstly avoid Blockbuster Video. There seems to be one on almost every corner like McDonald’s. Also like McDonald’s, the all have the same thing on the menu. Their selection is very uniform, so don’t expect to find a film in one that you couldn’t find in another. However, there are good alternatives among the chain stores. Movie Gallery/Video Xpress is a wonderful choice, and is the closest thing to independent video store among the chains. Many of them are former “Mom & Pop” stores that were bought into the franchise retaining their original stock. Additionally, when a Movie Gallery closes, their entire stock is sold (quite cheaply) to the public. Occasionally check your local Movie Gallery for sales of older films. Many of them have some great finds sitting on the $2.99 sale racks.

One does not need to empty out their back account to see the films we discuss. I would highly recommend making a list of the films you want to see and checking all of the video stores in your surrounding area before purchasing them off of the Internet. Don’t be afraid to burn a little gas looking for the films you’re dying to see. In the long run spending time searching for these films is far cheaper than purchasing them outright. Many are hidden in your local video store right now.

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