I thought we were immune. At least to some degree. I had heard that in other areas of the country people no longer had video rental stores. Most of ours in the Detroit area had closed up shop. The days of Blockbuster Video, Hollywood Video, and Movie Mania are long gone. They have been for years. Not to mention all the various mom and pop video shops that used to exist in the 1980s and early 1990s. They had all pretty much dried up by 2000. But one holdout still remained. A chain that I had always looked at as a cross between the big chain stores and small one-off mom and pop video shops. That was (and is) Family Video. Arguably the best of the chains to remain. So in that sense we lucked out. I would take a Family Video over a Blockbuster any day of the week. The former would send you get-out-of-jail-free cards in the mail if you had gone too long with late fees on your account. It was a way of forgiving you of those debts and getting you renting again. Smart and caring. Especially for a younger guy like myself, who, back then wasn’t great with money or returning videos on time. The latter (Blockbuster) would report you to a collection agency. Yikes! Blockbuster was also more expensive, and didn’t carry certain adult content. It tried to be a moral authority on what people watched by censoring what it carried. Family Video didn’t. Which is a bit ironic. Based on the name of each video chain you would think those policies might be reversed. But ultimately Family Video won in the battle of who had the most staying power.
Now before I declare Family Video dead (which I hope I never do), let me clarify. It is not dead. In fact as far as I know, there is still a Family Video open by me. If not more in the overall Detroit area. It’s a bit of a drive, but still remains last I checked (I confirmed – it’s still there). It’s not my regular store but I was there
about a month ago tonight [edit: same night after writing this article]. However last night I discovered the one closer to me is now a Dollar General. That surprised and saddened me. More than I expected.
So why didn’t I know this sooner? Well, because I hadn’t been to the one by me in about a year. Not because I didn’t want to, but other things got in the way. So I didn’t exactly help its survival. And that is part of what makes me feel bad. I really did like it.
I guess I’m going to have to make an effort to go to the farther away store (pictured here) more often. To try and help ensure its survival.
UPDATE: January 7th, 2021
Well, that didn’t last long. Looks like Family Video is dead. As of the 5th of January 2021, the CEO of Family Video declared that they were shutting the doors of the remaining 250 stores that were still open. Including the 58 that remained here in Michigan. Ending a 43 year history of the video chain starting in 1978.
The last day for video rentals was yesterday the 6th, but I’m just hearing about this today. They are selling everything in the stores, so I will be heading to my closest store tomorrow to see what remains. If it’s still open and I can get some additional pictures, I will post them in a future update to this article.
This is sad news. Truly the end of an era.