Video Store, 1986

Video Store 1986

Darryl Solomon, the president of VideoRave in Westwood, California. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Great find by Camera Viscera, the photo accompanies a June 1986 Los Angeles Times article about the home video boom, specifically the struggles of “independent video specialty stores” against “video superstores” and non-specialty stores. Here are some choice quotes:

About 30% of the nation’s TV-watching households now own videocassette recorders…

The average wholesale value of a VCR is about $390, contrasted with about $830 in 1981…

The price breakthrough may have been the wildly successful release last Christmas of the “Beverly Hills Cop” videocassette at $29.95 by Paramount Home Video, the industry leader in price-cutting since 1982. In comparison, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video released the “Ghostbusters” videotape at $79.95 at about the same time…

One of the marketing consultants quoted in the article says that the mom and pop video shops aren’t likely “to capsize like little sailboats in a storm,” but that’s exactly what happened. The one I worked at opened in 1984/1985 and closed in 1987/1988. The Wherehouse is cited as “the largest renter of video movies in the nation,” but that wouldn’t be the case for much longer. On August 25, 1986, the first Blockbuster franchise store opened in Marietta, Georgia.

Here are the videos I spot in the photo above (help if you can):

First row: Alien (thanks, David Augustyn), Android, Barbarella, The Beastmaster, The Black Hole (thanks, David Augustyn), The Blade Master (thanks, doerrhb), Bladerunner, A Boy and His Dog (thanks, Ricky Zhero), Brainstorm, Clash of the Titans, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Conan the Barbarian

Second row: D.A.R.Y.L., Defcon 4, Demon Seed, Dragonslayer, Dune, Explorers, Flash Gordon (thanks, Ricky Zhero), Iceman, Ice Pirates, Krull

Third row: The Neverending Story, Night of the Comet, The Philadelphia Experiment, Red Sonja, Runaway, Spacehunter, Star Trek II, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek III (x2), Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back (x2)

Fourth row: THX 1138, Timerider, Tron, 2001: A Space Odyssey, ?, ?, ?, ?, Westworld (x2)

More video stores here.

8 Responses to “Video Store, 1986”


  1. 1 narvo September 17, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Argh. I tried zooming in via Photoshop to figure out the mystery titles, but couldn’t ID any of them…EXCEPT…I’m certain that’s Westworld five titles to the right of 2001 on the bottom shelf. I know that robot cowboy stance anywhere. It’s gotta be.

    • 2 narvo September 17, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      What a sad thing to see the extinction of video stores, btw. That’s a whole culture gone by the wayside. There was a great li’l shop in Westchester (where I grew up) called VIDEOTEC. Total hole in the wall, but I learned more about movies and movie genres from the dood that ran that tiny place than anyone in my whole life. He was so thorough and passionate about movies, and I easily spent a couple of hours talking to him every time I went in.

      From my experience, most of the employees in the big name stores like Wherehouse and Blockbuster seemed to be there just to work, and didn’t even really care about movies. I’d ask them about certain titles and they would have these one-liners, never elaborating or saying “oh, you might also like…”

      The only exception I found was a Hollywood Video store that opened up in Downey in the late ’90s. It was a brand new chain at the time and I believe the first to offer 5-night rentals for a cheap rate. There was only a handful of employees at this particular store, and all of them loved movies, each of them having their own set of particular favs and/or directors. One loved all-out action flicks, another liked campy and cult horror, and another dug sci-fi and deadpan Jarmusch-y type of stuff. So if we ever had a question about a movie, they would laugh and relay the question to one another like ping-pong until someone nailed it…and they would do it with gusto. Almost every time we’d end up walking out with a bunch of titles that they recommended, and they’d even want to know what we thought when we got back.

      Isn’t that what one would expect in any video store?? Doesn’t that contribute to sales and customer loyalty? It sure did in our case. The social and immersive aspect of cool video stores like that is what I miss most. Every time we went out to rent, we looked forward to talking to the employees and bonding with them about movies and we loved or hated about them. In the end, we’d leave with an armful of flicks and smiles on our faces.

      Ironically later, when small, niche “indie” video stores started opening up on the Westside, they were often full of film snobs who wouldn’t lift a finger to help you if you didn’t know your Herzog, Fulci or De Laurentis. I dunno, it’s like when indie films suddenly became “cool.” I think that was the beginning of the end.

  2. 3 doerrhb September 18, 2015 at 2:17 am

    I agree on Westworld. Looks like 2 copies, with alternate cover art styles. I also see Conan the Barbarian (some white space) and then Caligula on the top row.

  3. 7 Mark G. September 18, 2015 at 8:01 am

    On the last one in the first row, where the spine is still visible, is a copy of Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione’s 1979 Roman Empire porn/drama CALIGULA. Since it’s available on the shelf with no restrictions, it’s probably the R-rated version rather than the X-Rated version.

  4. 8 narvo September 18, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    So cool to be amongst all you VHS box art masters!

    Man I just realized how many of these films I actually hadn’t seen, even though I saw their covers over and over in the shops.

    lol, “Sorry I’m Out” …I can totally see someone going “Dang it!” when they see that on the shelf.


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