This evening, we decided we’d like to watch a movie not yet on our Netflix queue, so we ventured to the last surviving independent rental venue in Houston of which we are aware, Audio/Video Plus (they do not appear to have a web presence, which as you’ll see is hardly surprising).
Heretofore, when we’ve wanted the odd ad-hoc rental, we went to Cactus, a locally owned and operated music and video shop that’s been in Houston for years and years and years. Sadly, last year the owners retired and, in the absence of a buyer, closed the store for the last time. We miss it. Since then, Mrs Heathen and I have done all our renting with Netflix except for a sad weekend when we tried out Hollywood, only to become so frustrated with their response to unplayable DVDs that we fired them immediately.
At the time, we thought — foolishly, as it turns out — that our real option ought to have been the two branches of AVPlus, the last vestige of local rental in Houston, said to be a cinephile’s dream. We figured we’d get there eventually; the inner loop store isn’t far from Heathen HQ.
Well, tonight was the night. When we arrived at the shop, we were at first confused, as the parking lot was utterly empty. Still, they appeared well-lit and open, so in we went, and asked the counter girl about a membership. That’s when she said words that, from her tone, she knew to be discouraging and bizarre:
“Ok, it’s a two dollar processing fee. We need your driver’s license and a credit card. We only rent VHS.”
Heathen Central does not now even HAVE a VHS player hooked up, and we’re not even sure if we still own one. Furthermore, PAYING someone to rent tape when DVDs are available seems like the fullest folly; why pay the same money for a crappy picture and shitty sound that you’d pay for high resolution and a 5.1 surround track?
Frankly, no wonder their parking lot was empty. Independent Houston, we tried, we really did. But tonight, we rented from Blockbuster. There appears to be no local venue from whom we can rent DVDs, and we’re unwilling compromise on experience just to keep our money local. After all, making the effort to buy local usually means HIGHER quality, not lower.
Finally, we’ll just say we think Ray put it best:
No, I ain’t got a fax machine! I also ain’t got an Apple IIc, polio, or a falcon!
Or, as it happens, a VCR. Join the 90s, AVPlus, or die the sad, slow death of a dinosaur left behind by the market.