For those of us old enough, there was a time when physically traveling to a video store was just about the only way to find and watch movies that weren't in the movie theaters.  Blockbuster had walls of the newest releases, small stores had almost-random assortments of titles, independent stores often had obscure and foreign films, and "be kind -- rewind" was a well-known instruction.  But how did these stores affect filmmakers?  What did they mean for the movie industry, what led to their disappearances, and is there absence a good or bad thing?  Tom Roston assembled over twenty people involved in the film industry and spliced together their interviews in I Lost It at the Video Store: A Filmmakers' Oral History of a Vanished Era.

This book has Roston's interview subjects chatting about their experiences clerking in video stores, explaining the business side of the direct-to-video market, sharing stories about their favorite video stores, exploring how watching movies on VHS enabled and affected their own films, and what ultimately killed the video store -- and what followed after its demise.  While a few chapters are monopolized by their subject -- one is nothing but Kevin Smith, another is all about Reservoir Dogs -- most of the book consists of a few sentences or paragraphs from the interview subjects, put together in a semblance of a conversation.

There are times I Lost It at the Video Store would have benefited from simply letting its subjects talk uninterrupted instead of mixing their thoughts together.  That said, I really enjoyed this book.  It supplies a first-hand look back at a now-vanished, once-dominant place that had its own culture and impact on many greats in cinema, as well as thoughtful disagreement on whether its vanishing is for better or worse.  This is an informative and entertaining look back at the virtually extinct place that was the video store.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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