September 2nd, 2010 | Published in Urbanist
|Movie Madness is going strong on Southeast Belmont Street, but the demise of Hollywood Video has left some Portland neighborhoods with a video void. Photo: Dustin Eppers/EnzymePDX|
Hollywood Video, we hardly knew ye.
Two years ago, after a move from inner Southeast to inner Northeast Portland, Urbanist began renting DVDs from the local Hollywood Video, which was about 15 minutes on foot from her new home. The change in venue was a bit of a culture shock for Urbanist, who was accustomed to getting her DVD fix at Movie Madness, known for its quirky character and unmatched selection.
Sometimes the selection at Movie Madness was better in theory than in practice. Once, after reading “Sometimes a Great Notion” by Ken Kesey, Urbanist ran to the store in hopes of renting the movie version starring Paul Newman, only to find the limited edition copy in stock required a $100 deposit. The fee so surprised Urbanist that she was unable to act and eventually left the store empty handed.
Mostly what Urbanist liked about Movie Madness was its small-scale, independent vibe, and the fact that it was within walking distance. Hollywood Video, of course, was lacking in the first two categories, being large and chain-like.
Still, Urbanist was happy because there was a video store in the neighborhood. And after awhile, she became friendly with the Hollywood Video clerks, often commiserating about people who never put movies back in the right place. Urbanist even signed up for her first-ever rewards plan – a nifty scheme in which she paid a mere $8 a month and got five free rentals and no late fees.
|Show’s Over: An accounting of Hollywood Video stores that have closed in recent years via Google Maps|
So when Urbanist showed up at Hollywood Video one day to find the store was permanently closed, she was shocked, appalled, and deeply despondent. Now the closest video store is about 2 miles away – too far for Urbanist to walk, especially when she is having one of those Hey! Let’s-rent-a-video moments.
Driving to a video store is anathema to Urbanist.
Now of course Urbanist knows about Netflix. But Urbanist is, after all, an Urbanist – and a Portland urbanist at that. And she wonders:
Will Portland sustain its vision of 20-minute neighborhoods, in which home, work and entertainment are within a 20-minute walk? Or are we headed in the direction of 1- minute neighborhoods, where you stay at home and download everything from the Internet?
Urbanist’s friends say she is too gloomy. They point to still-thriving locally owned video stores such as, well, Movie Madness and Trilogy Video. They also note the financial struggles of Barnes and Noble and say the ebook/movie era may actually encourage independent book and DVD shops at the expense of chains, making the 20-minute neighborhood a very real throwback to the future.
Urbanist wants to believe in the enduring power of village-style living – and shopping. She recalled a time, not so long ago, when people claimed video stores would render the local movie theater obsolete. So last Saturday, Urbanist and her husband walked to the neighborhood theater, got some popcorn and watched “The Kids Are All Right” on the big screen. The name of the theater made Urbanist feel right at home. It was, you guessed it, The Hollywood.
Coda: What happened to Hollywood Video’s thousands of former customers? Did you join Netflix? Decamp to another video store? How many people drive to the video store? Bus? Walk? Bike? Urbanist wants to know.