By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Yes We Can

With the impending closure of Family Video, the last of the chain video stores, I’ve been thinking a lot about the video store experience in Corsicana, and how much of an impact those formative Friday nights had on me.

For my generation, the video store experience was a regular weekend thing, and its earliest years were a legitimate craze that everyone jumped to be a part of. It wasn’t just dedicated video rental places, people could rent videos from grocery stores like Safeway, Fullerton’s, or H-E-B. I remember as a kid being able to rent films at Fullerton’s right as you walked in. Sitting next to the old Gorf machine was a selection of everything from dramas, Masters of the Universe and Transformers cartoons, and of course, the horror section.

A selection of the various video rental places in Corsicana. – Courtesy photo

The first video store in Corsicana was The Movie Store. Most people remember it sitting right next to Cinema IV (or Cinema 1 & 2, if you really wanted to go back). The other original rental places were ColorTyme, Curtis Mathes, and Franklin Electronics. All of those places has their own specialized “rental clubs” like Curtes Mathes’ “Showstopper” and Franklin’s Franklin’s Movie Club.”

Back then, memberships weren’t free. Even before customers rented movies, there were annual membership fees that usually ran about $25-30. ColorTyme had a “VIP Membership” that cost $200, promising “1-year unlimited usage of our library – 1 tape checked out at a time, kept up to 7 days.”

Of course, to buy a VHS tape back then usually cost $100 per tape if consumers wanted to build a home library.

The big one for Corsicana was Movieland. It eventually dropped the whole “Pay for a membership” thing, and went out of its way to stock as many movies as it could. Movieland had a place on First Avenue, before moving to Main Street, and finally settling on 15th Avenue in the Southland Center.

That particular iteration of the store was my everything growing up.

Outside of just movie rentals and sales (when the prices dropped to the $20 range for tapes), John Roberts, the store owner, sold a little bit of everything in that store: TVs, VCRs, video cameras, video games, toys, there was a side yogurt store attached to the place. It truly was designed to keep customers there. The store even made a location cameo in The Dreaded horror film.

But the real appeal was the “Midway Arcade,” where it was filled wall to wall with the latest arcade games. I can’t even count how many hours I spent after school playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Street Fighter II.

Of course, they had that “black curtain area” on the far wall. I never went in there, but John once told me it was very popular.

Ron’s Movie Palace on Second Avenue was the “other” big rental store in town. John eventually acquired them as well and made it Town and County Video.

In 1992, Corsicana got Blockbuster Video, which was my second job while in high school. I worked with a number of my friends there, and all we did is rent movies and games. We had five free movie/game rentals per week, and between us, we watched just about everything. I was there for the great video comings of Jurassic Park, and Forrest Gump. We pulled so many ridiculous pranks there, often with customers in the store.

Watching The Last Blockbuster documentary last fall gave me a real chuckle because hiding in the movie drop box to snatch movies from unwitting customers was less a clever idea I came up with, and more a rite of passage for multiple Blockbuster employees.

In my later years, I remembered Premiere Video in Dallas, and during a 2019 trip to Austin, I discovered I Luv Video, which had over 100,000 videos. I loved that place. I meant to go back, but COVID closed it down last year, and it depressed me as it fell among the lost places of this crappy last year.

I’ve often wondered if a video store could still survive in Corsicana. There are still Redbox kiosks around town even now, so somebody is still finding use in renting movies and games. I had one day hoped to find a way to justify a Family Video coming here with a side pizza place attached, but with them closing down now, that battle has been lost.

I understand with streaming, it’s easy to just flip endlessly through icons looking for something to watch, but there was something special about the video store experience. It was a place where everybody went on the weekend.

You could meet up and talk with so many friends because the longer you stayed, the more people you knew would stop in. You could talk endlessly about movies with the staff, as most were really into “talking shop” about films. Who didn’t love walking down the aisles of the horror section, as those were some of the most provocative and enticing covers out there?

And simply, streaming doesn’t have half the content of one of those old stores, not to mention they lost rights to movies all the time. And forget it about finding the obscure movie about “that one thing with the guy” based off that description (I got those types of questions more often than you would think)?

I still think if I could pull it off somehow, I’d open a video store in town. It’s just another type of library, and I’d definitely make it an experience for film lovers.

I even have a Ninja Turtles arcade machine to put in there, so I’m practically ready.

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