They say you often don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. But in the case of The Video Station, its devoted customers know very well what they're about to lose.
"What am I going to do without you?" Virginia Detweiler, of Lafayette, said Tuesday as she approached owner Bruce Shamma, who was behind the counter. "You're my village. You raised me."
The dialogue was heavy on the sentimental as Boulder's own last picture show unspooled. The news quickly spread that, after 35 years, The Video Station is calling it a wrap at 6 p.m. Monday — finally leaving Boulder County without a video rental outlet.
They've got it at The Video Station
An arbitrary sampling of movies you won't find at Red Box:
"Army of Shadows" (1969, dir. Jean-Pierre Melville)
"Beat the Devil" (1953, dir. John Huston)
"Beau Travail" (1999, dir. Claire Denis)
"Godzilla vs. Hedorah" (1971, dir. Yoshimitsu Banno)
"Le Cercle Rouge" (1970, dir. Jean-Pierre Melville)
"Mudhoney" (1965, dir. Russ Meyer)
"The Crowd" (1928, dir. King Vidor)
"They Saved Hitler's Brain" (1968, dir. David Bradley)
The relentless rise of internet streaming services, of which Netflix and Amazon are just two of the more dominant examples, finally has brought the curtain down on an outlet that boasts an inventory of 43,000 titles and a staff that not only knows films, but also its customers.
"If I had a regular who I didn't see for a month or so, sometimes I'd just look up their account to see what was up with them," Shamma said.
Speaking to one longtime customer Tuesday, Shamma said, "I owe so much to regulars and loyalists like yourself. I couldn't have gone this far without you."
'Writing on the wall'
Hanging out at the store's 5290 Arapahoe Ave. location, former 10-year Video Station employee J. D. Geddes was keeping Shamma company — and he offered a director's-cut version of what it all means.
"I think it's horrible," Geddes said. "I think it's a case where the country is losing so much more, and people don't seem to understand that."
In the streaming-media culture, he said, there is so much that people will never see, hear, or read because "you get what they tell you, not what you want." In exchange for the ease of convenience, Geddes said, "You're limiting yourself to the consensus."
But Geddes, a Longmont resident, said the posting of the dreaded "To all our loyal customers..." sign inside the store's front door should not have come as a shock to anyone.
"It's not unexpected," Geddes said, linking the plight of The Video Station to that of many record stores, bookstores and newspapers. "I think we all saw the writing on the wall."
For those whose film diet rarely if ever ranged beyond the offerings of Red Box or the already-defunct Blockbuster chain, the depth and breadth of movies available at Video Station might be dizzying.
There's a horror section — but also more specialized sections devoted to European horror and Asian horror. There's an array of war films — but also areas reserved for history of warfare, World War II and the Holocaust. Not only is there comedy, but also shelves reserved specifically for stand-up.
Of course there's a foreign film section, but customers can browse through shelving exclusively dedicated to movies from Iran, Ireland, Italy, Latin America, Mexico and Scotland, for example. Portugese cinema also is not slighted.
A question Shamma is hearing from many visitors is, what's going to happen to his voluminous inventory?
"I'm going to put it in storage," said Shamma, who is soft-spoken and seems to favor economy in dialogue.
As for its long-term fate, he said, "I don't know. It will be there moldering when I'm six feet under. Or it will be on my epitaph. Or who knows?"
He conceded that moving the store in 2013 from its prior location at 28th Street's Buffalo Village Shopping Center to its final perch on East Arapahoe probably hurt his walk-in traffic. It was a move that had to be made, however, in exchange for cheaper rent.
'End of an era'
Customer Jeanne Winer, who lives in the area of north Boulder's Lee Hill Drive, confessed she was one of those whose loyalty fell off after that relocation.
"If more people like me had been more loyal..." she said. "I have been coming here less, because of where they moved to. It is so sad. Because they have such great, great movies. What a sad end of an era."
Through the day Tuesday, a stream of customers came and went. Some were there to grab a final stack of rental DVDs, others just to pay their respects to Shamma and his staff of seven — who, according to the owner, have not scripted their next moves past closing day.
"Next Monday is going to be a non-rental day," Shamma said. "But we're going to be open eight hours. Most of us will be here. So if people want to come in and say their final goodbyes, final returns..."
And as the final credits roll, Boulder County film lovers will be left to their Netflix and their microwaved popcorn as another cultural artifact surrenders to the onrushing binary sea of ones and zeroes, relentlessly flooding the media landscape.
Detweiler fretted, "I'm going to have to figure out technology."
Referring to the Netflix experience, she asked, "How do you stop it, and go to the bathroom, and then come back? That's my biggest question.
"It's just me and my cat. And the cat doesn't help."
Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/chasbrennan
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