International Independent Video Store Day

October 17

Cole Amundson  |   Thursday Oct. 1st, 2015

My family and I moved to Bozeman when I was five years old. We didn’t move for reasons related to careers or other financial incentives, we came out west for the same reason many people come, to live near nature, and to escape the city with its humidity and traffic. It wasn’t long after the move that we discovered Bozeman’s independent video store Movie Lovers, which was then called Tape King. The plastic texture of the cases that protected the tape, the way you’d have to finesse them to get the tape out, the rewinding sound before you’d return it, and the display of melted VHSs that hung over the counter warning patrons not to let them sit in the sun on hot days all remain in the memory of my childhood video experience. I remember when DVDs took over, being wowed by the enhanced picture quality, and the store changing its name to Movie Lovers to accommodate that change. Visiting the movie store, browsing its hallowed aisles, plucking something off its shelves, and watching the clerk’s reaction, approving or disapproving, became something of a weekly ritual. Most of all I remember the movies, my impressions of them, and the excitement of seeing something remarkable for the first time.

As a voracious consumer of film and television I get why online streaming services have caused an exodus from video stores. The allure of instantaneous viewings, never having to get off your couch, and low subscription fees have overwhelmed most stores. The words “Blockbuster Video” already sound like the relic of an ancient past, never mind that they filed for bankruptcy only five years ago. I won’t argue against Netflix or Amazon’s convenience, binge watching is more gloriously indulgent when you don’t have to change the disc every three or four episodes. But what I will argue is that, like libraries, record stores, and comic shops, a local video store can act as a haven and gathering place for people excited about expanding their understanding of culture, and discovering new works of art. To celebrate what video stores have to offer their community, and to celebrate their continued survival in a post-Blockbuster era, Movie Lovers will be celebrating International Independent Video Store Day on October 17.

I must have been in fifth or sixth grade when my parents decided that I was old enough to watch The Matrix. Though of course it was the fifth biggest film of 1999, being allowed to watch it was like being initiated into a secret club. I had never seen anything like that, its action sequences floored me of course, but it also piqued an interest, regardless of how well I understood it (or didn’t) at the time, in philosophy and technology. I watched it that evening, watched the bonus features, then devoured it again that night.

Of course this experience can be had in a digitized world, and I don’t mean to be precious about physical media, but I do think something important is lost in this transition: community. As Lester Bangs (played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) says in Almost Famous, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” For the first eighty years the medium existed, it was a social experience. Movies rarely could be watched at home, on your own time. Whether it was a packed Friday evening with the newest Hollywood film, or a smoky arthouse theater with only a few people, movies were something shared. Watching at home is often an insular experience. Sure, they’re often viewed with friends and loved ones, but just as often it’s just you, relaxing after a day of work, enjoying a rainy afternoon or recovering from a cold, watching film the way one reads a novel. What a video store does is bring that experience outside of your home, you share that movie with your friends, other customers and the employees there. I know it was important for me to have that during those awkward phases of growing up, realizing your group of friends isn’t what it used to be and slowly becoming part of a new one. Those fumbling moments of growing into maturity were, for me at least, consoled by film, books and TV, whose writers knew exactly that feeling, and whose work was recommended by the clerks at the store. I’m a nearly graduated film student now, working at Movie Lovers on the side, and though I’m often groggy in the mornings, my day is always improved by seeing people leave the store with something they’ve never seen before. Whether its parents initiating their kids into the world of Star Wars for the first time, or someone who decides to check out a much revered classic to see what the buzz is all about, it is exciting for both of us.

All of these are the reasons why we are celebrating International Independent Video Store on October 17. Yes there will be cool perks like giveaways, sales, pizza, late fee forgiveness and the like. Yes, it will be fun. Yes, we will be celebrating our continued existence in the digital age. But most importantly, we’re celebrating what a video store means for its community, a place where culture, whether it’s in the form of Zoolander or The Tree of Life, is shared. Where movies are recommended not by an algorithm, but by real people with their own tastes and interests.  

Join Movie Lovers located in the University Square Shopping Center at 200 S 23rd Ave on October 17 from 5pm to close to celebrate International Independent Video Store!  

About the Author(s)