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When the Video You Wanted to Rent was 'Out'

02/05/2016 12:03

When the video you wanted to rent was 'out', you passed through a series of emotions. The first, much as with the stages of grief, was usually denial.

"Maybe someone's dropped it back," you'd tell yourself. "Maybe it's behind the counter, or in the drop box, and the woman behind the counter just hasn't marked it as being back 'in' yet".

So you'd ask her, and she'd say no. If the ticket says it's out, it's out.

She probably didn't understand how much you really wanted to watch Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment that night. She probably didn't realise that the next stage of your plan would be to loiter around the shop for the next twenty minutes in case the renter came back. Every time the drop box flap flapped, you'd wonder if that was a copy of your sought-after movie. Every time a new punter walked into the shop with a rental video in their hand, you'd size them up. "Does that look like the sort of person to rent Police Academy 2?" you'd ask yourself.

But who were you kidding? EVERYONE loves Police Academy 2.

When the video you wanted to rent was 'out', different shops would have different ways of breaking this cold, brutal truth to you. Some would use a ticket system, where the ticket poking out of the VHS case (perhaps with an impressive list of signatures from previous renters on it) would tell you that, yes, your film was 'in' and that therefore an absence of said ticket meant that it was 'out'. Just like your luck. Other establishments would favour a bright reversible star-shaped tag with 'in' or 'out' written in permanent marker. The most brutal system simply removed the box from the shelves altogether if the flick wasn't 'in', thus rendering the absence of the movie invisible. Dolph Lungren in The Punisher, you say? No sir. No sign of that around here.

Things being 'out' had a knock-on effect, of course. One of those things that seemed trivial at the time, but had a huge impact on the way we consume movies. Because if you hit the video shop on a Saturday night, you sure as hell weren't going to be able to pick up a copy of that week's big release unless you were insanely lucky. You weren't going to get Gremlins. Hell, if you turned up at the peak time on a Saturday night, you weren't going to get Ghoulies.

And that's why people rented movies like Munchies.

The unlimited supply of the digital age means that everyone can watch the biggest movie of the week at the same time. An unlimited number of copies of the latest blockbuster can be watched simultaneously. Thus, the Munchies equivalent of 2016 becomes a niche thing again; not a third-choice of a mainstream audience, but a curio found only by those determined to ferret such things out. More choice means less variety, once again, and by gaining choice and convenience we lose something else.

Proper old school renters might even remember the two colour ticket system. A white ticket, for example, meant that the movie was in. A yellow ticket, on the other hand, meant that the movie was in, but only ON BETAMAX. This resulted in a kind of double-take of joy followed swiftly by sadness. "Yes, it's in! Oh, hang on, no! NO! It's in on Beta!"

All these moments will be lost in time.

Like late fees in rain.

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