Headquartered in Glenview, Illinois, I imagine I am appealing to a very small niche when I write about the family-owned Family Video Movie Club Inc., but I would be remiss if I did not jot down my thoughts about the store as it closes its doors at last. I have watched other Family Video’s in the Illinois area go, one by one, and like many individuals in the local area, I anticipated ours would be belly up any day.
As prefaced, most of you are not familiar with Family Video, but, it was a prevalent part of my childhood, and I would attest it meant something to a lot of people in years past.
I can remember perusing the Kid’s Movie section in my youth (Family Video was Home of the Free Kids Movies, a business decision that likely made more sense at the time than in hindsight) and all the sun damaged DVD cases in all their splendor (seriously, why didn’t they have curtains!?). I can remember renting videogames I would never otherwise buy, and I can remember being introduced to so many series’ in the horror genre.
If it was not for Family Video, I would have never watched the horror film .found, which means I never would have interviewed Scott Schirmer and Shane Beasley, and that would have meant Todd Rigney never would have wrote for Readers Digested for all of five minutes! I never would have watched Boogeyman: The Killer Compilation and discovered the Puppet Master series and all of Full Moon Features’ absurd, B-movie gems. I never would have walked past the film FeardotCom a million times without ever watching it, having it more engraved in my mind than the sun damage Family Video caused the movie cases by not having curtains. My uncle would not have a binder filled of burnt DVDs with names on them he chicken scratched with a Sharpie.
I remember a day prior, shooting the breeze and talking about all the ways Family Video could save itself. What if they created a delivery system that could bring DVDs to your door at the same day? Or, this and that, blah, and blah. The truth is, Family Video, and, probably, rental stores, in general, are a relic of a bygone era. Netflix and other streaming services have come by and offered a cheaper, more convenient alternative that they simply cannot compete with. With the Covid-19 pandemic, surely they were hemorrhaging money, but, even years before that, it seemed they were always on the brink of shutting down the same way other rental companies like Blockbuster did prior. It sucks, but that’s life sometimes.
Although it makes sense and I understand it, I am still left with a melancholy, bittersweet taste in my mouth. I had not rented from Family Video in years, only visiting every other month to buy a film or videogame being cycled out of their rotation. It does feel like I lost something though.
I make jokes, but I spent a lot of time looking around that rental store. I can remember being a pre-teen walking by trying to see in between the creases of the door in the “Adult Movie” section, and I can remember marathoning A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, or Halloween and Child’s Play, and, really, I think that I and Readers Digested owe a level of debt to Family Video. They were, in truth, an essential part of my childhood, more often than not acting as how I had access to most of what I watched.
I feel like, without Family Video, I might not have been started by encyclopedic obsession with horror, I might not have had as many movie nights with friends watching oddball South Korean movies, and that would’ve been a shame. So, with that, I say goodbye to Family Video (your gumball machine was disgusting), and cross my fingers, hoping it doesn’t become another Dollar General. You were something fun in a town that mostly wasn’t.