Video Paradise: A Bygone Era


After 25 years in business, Chandler video store Video Paradise is closing on Friday Jan 29th. I had to drop by and pay my respects and pick over the carcass like a movie hyena. The good people working there said their lease was bought out by an evil unnamed dollar store and they could not complete and afford the move to a new location. Movies have always been a passion of mine and an escape from a tumultuous home life. I worked in a small mom & pop video store in the 90’s in Minnesota. A good portion of my childhood was two blocks from this store where my younger brother and I would wander to rent Nintendo games and movies. We were poor and couldn’t afford to buy, but we could rent. When I turned 16, I was legally able to work there and oh happy days! I had the best job where I got hang out, earn money, get out of the house, watch movies, AND bring home all the movies I could watch. I voraciously devoured my way though the comedy and horror sections. If I had a little red wagon, I would have looked just like Matilda coming home from the library. It was mom and pop, just like Video Paradise, it even had an ‘Adult’ section!

As I wandered the aisles at Video Paradise, I saw the hopeful faces of everyone looking for the next great movie. I relived the excitement of my younger days when the movie box was on the shelf, and the disappointment when the movie was checked out. I can’t count the number of times I was yelled at on a busy Friday and Saturday because the store was out of whatever new release. I fondly remembered arguing with my store’s owner about how no one wanted to see Mel Gibson in the marquee for weeks when there were far better new movies and new posters in from the distributor. I walked by the adult section and remembered the feeling I had when I was 16, nervous & terrified of what was behind the beaded curtain, and even more scared of the people who went back there. Sex is scary at 16, or at least it was for a 16 year old girl in the 90’s. I lovingly wandered the aisles being pulled by memories of movies from bygone eras and drawn into the new releases with compelling cover art and filled my basket full of clearance deals. I was struck with a funny memory of a senior that I had a bit of a crust on who dropped off an adult movie rental only to be horrified to know me (I still remember your name and red face, sir)!

My brother still lives in Minnesota and is lucky enough to live two blocks away from a real video store, just like we did growing up. This video store even has really good pizza! He brings his 5 year old son to the video store and they lovingly pick over the movies and video games. I can’t help but be jealous that his son gets this experience but it’s lost to most of the next generation.

Many great things have come the evolution in the technology of movie distribution, especially the quick and broad distribution of truly independent movies. However, we are left in a vacuum where we are limited to the selection of that digital provider wants to pay for that day (Netflix, VUDU, Hulu, etc) and the cold online discussion forums to find new movies. My video store was a place to talk movies, deep knowledge or surface didn’t matter, there’s something for everyone. Going forward, the 5th Largest Metro area in the US that we lovingly call ‘The Valley’ is down to one video store, Superstar Video on 47th Ave and Olive. Tucson has one left on Speedway, not far from epic indie movie theater, The Loft. I wonder, if there’s a resurgence of vinyl for music and pervasive capitalizing of 70s-90’s kids nostalgia can I hope for a resurgence of the Video Store?