A few weeks ago I got a text message from a friend. It was a simple message, just three words, but words that froze me for a bit nonetheless. “Popcorn Video Closing???” It said. I hadn’t heard the news, but over the course of the following day the news did in fact break that my hometown video store, Popcorn Video in Greeneville was closing. Just months after marking their 40th year in business.
In many ways, I’ve known it was going to happen one day, especially as our world becomes increasingly digital and the majority of people consume movies by streaming. Yet Popcorn Video had weathered so many storms in the home video world, I felt like it would always be there as long physical media was. They staved off Blockbuster, Netflix, other video stores and managed to be the same place it’s had always been for the 40 years they were in business.
For me, the loss of Popcorn Video hits home in a way that it might not to most. For some, who have long moved away from DVD and Blu-ray discs, it may bring up a fond memory of days gone by. Yet for someone who loves movies on a molecular deep level, it’s like hearing your alma mater is shutting down. Popcorn Video was as important to me during my formative years as any educational institution I ever stepped foot in.
It was a sacred ritual. Those Fridays after school when my Mom would take me to Popcorn Video and I was allowed to rent two things for the weekend. It was either two movies, two video games, or one of each. Because everyone at Popcorn Video knew me, Mom was fine with giving me the money and letting me go in on my own. I would take my time wandering around the aisles trying to find what I wanted.
My love of classic film, and my passion for sharing it with others, is directly a result of their classics section. When I became hooked on the movies of the Marx Brothers at the age of 7, I started to explore every movie by them that Popcorn Video had. Once I had watched all those, I began to look at other movies in the classics aisle. The Marx Brothers led to Abbott and Costello, and that led to checking out Film Noir, and so on and so on.
I was lucky that Popcorn Video stocked such a wide variety too. They always kept more than what was just popular. You’d always find one or two indie or art-house movies. It’s why one day, almost 20 years ago, I was stopped in my tracks by seeing a lone copy on the new release wall of “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.” Intrigued by the title, I picked up the DVD case and saw it was a loving parody of 1950s low-budget sci-fi/horror movies. I rented it that weekend and laughed my head off the entire time. That movie is one of my all-time favorite discoveries from the store.
I mourn the closure of Popcorn Video for many reasons. Both personal and cultural. The community of the video store. Streaming gives us thousands and thousands of options. A computer that helps you find what you wanna watch. Yet, the human factor is gone. If Netflix only shows you what’s the most popular movies on Netflix are, then how are you going to get to find your own personal “Lost Skeleton of Cadavra?”
Popcorn Video invited discovery. It was a place to explore. You could find “Jurassic Park” or you could walk around and find some odd little British TV show you’d never heard of. That’s how I fell in love with the BBC’s punk rock sitcom “The Loved Ones.” Though the closing fills me with sadness hats off to Popcorn Video for 40 years. It held together longer than most video store, both local and national. I know that for me it will always hold a special place in my heart. Greeneville just won’t seem the same passing through on the 11-E without their sign out front. See you next week.