Is it conceptual?

I am used to people being baffled by the existence of a video shop in 2017 (2016, 2015, etc, back to Y2K), but last week I was faced with a question about the ontology of the thing…

“It’s conceptual?” she asked…

Flicks is not (intentionally, at least) an installation / work of art. It is, I reply, a 20th century video shop: we rent movies to people for money. But, if I reflect on the question (as I have been forced to do ever since I was asked) I can’t really insist that my reply rings true.

If we understand the “video shop” as a company or business (which is Ltd) then it’s a concept, which means that we want to understand it as a physical thing. It is not, however, the sum of its many tangible parts; the films on DVD or VHS are objects within it, but not actually “it” at all.  Nor is it 19 Christmas Steps – that’s just where it is; it was somewhere else before and something else was in its place and will no doubt be here/there in future. It is also not any one, two, three or more specific people; the change in ownership some four or five years ago and the advent of cats continues to challenge the notion that even people are a persistent imperative.

It is, then, the renting of movies – but isn’t that just a theoretical thing, anyway? I mean, we make up and change the rules on rental all the time (prices, duration, subscription model, loyalty programmes, etc), and haven’t we absolutely messed with the original model by introducing a private hire space and a selection of local records for sale?

Surely, then, the “video shop” is only conceptual.

But it can’t  just be the idea of renting movies, either, because iTunes and other online platforms, from which you can rent movies, aren’t a video shop – are they?

Is it, then, the idea of renting movies from people in a physical place?

But that can’t be  it, either, because you can do that at the library and what we do is different… isn’t it?

Well, i suppose, then, we could say that what’s unique to the “video shop”, which seems now to be as marked by its scarcity as anything else, is that it is born of an historical moment and that the link or persistence of its historical imperative is paramount to its present ontology. The 20th Century part of its and our title means everything.

Further, we might surmise that the video shop is also an attitude as much as a concept:  the rules, service and space we continually decide to provide are a matter of attitude originating from three company Directors – myself and the two Daves.

It is definitely not, then, a number of other things people have tried to convince me that it is (especially over the past two or so years as it becomes oddly fetishized like the redundant format of VHS): not an archive, not a repository, not a library, not a community service. It can only exist (conceptually, even) because of the collectively understood and accepted existence of a specific concept in the past and, as such a time should ever occur that we should stop renting movies to people for money (the one immovable concept of its historical persistence), then it should cease to be a “video shop”.

So, while that still doesn’t qualify it as an art project or installation, it is true that the video shop is conceptual. Which makes my job far more difficult than just renting movies to people for money (which is hard enough). I must also tell people about 20th Century Flicks (a “video shop”) in order to garner their acknowledgement and endorsement of the ontology of the concept: only through collective cognizance can I hope to prove, and continue, its existence.



Mommy, where do videos go when they die?

Ever since our appearance on The One Show last year, people with boxes, attics, lofts, basements and garages full of unwanted videos have been calling. Understandably, most people don’t want a bunch of old VHS to continue taking up space and collecting dust in their homes.

The recycling plant for VHS, previously in Bristol, has closed down. Charity shops are packed to the rafters with the darned unsaleable things. So I understand why, after hearing about our store, with its wall of VHS, people would think we might be just the ticket for finally dispensing with one’s home collection of unloved movies.

Unfortunately, we don’t always want them either.

Most of the time it’s because we already have them. Our collection is a little over 19,000 strong (mostly DVD, a couple hundred Blu-ray and a couple thousand VHS). If something is super rare – say you have some video nasties – then yeah, we’d take those. But, tends to be that if you do have such beasts you either a) don’t want to offload ’em or b) do but know that they’re worth summat, so you take to eBay. Much as we’d like to have those puppies, we’re a video shop and it’s 2016 so, you know, we can’t really afford to pay £200 a pop for summat that may never even see the light of rental day.

What happens, then, to the hundreds and thousands of VHS in your homes?


Unless you’re super recycle conscious, it’s unlikely you can be bothered to take them apart and separately recycle the individual components. So, I dare say, many of them turn to landfill.

And that’s what’s likely to happen with all those DVDs you’re amassing, too.

Despite the decline of home entertainment sales – and the close to obliteration of the rental industry – DVDs, and indeed Blu-rays, are still being made. But even if they’re picked up for a pound or two in the sale bins, it’s unlikely you’ll keep them forever.

Maybe you will re-watch Die Hard, and All About Eve. But will you really return to The Knowing? That’s a stretch, and I say this as a bona fide Nic Cage devotee.


This is not my way of making a case for the internet. Rather, it’s my way of pointing out how sad the fate of so many physical copies of movies truly is. It’s also why a rental store is the kind of thing you ought to support.

We’re actually more environmentally friendly and cost effective than physically buying the stuff yourself. And we don’t throw stuff away just because it’s a bit crap – we have plenty of terrible movies and we intend to keep ’em for as long as you want to come rent ’em. What we have become is a sort of library. We keep stuff as best we can (including donations of stuff we don’t have, just that we can’t take duplicates) which means our selection is bigger and better than the majority of what’s available through online streaming platforms. We don’t have everything and we are aware of that, but we have a lot.

However, and this is the point I really want to make, what we don’t do is add to the problem of rampant consumerism and landfill culture. We’re not into making you buy stuff at an accelerated rate so that you can fill your homes with crap and we don’t throw out a tonne of films to landfill – even when our collection of ex-rentals is blocking access to the counter. Kinda like it is right now.

So stumble on in, make your way through the trenches of display cases and find something to watch without contributing to the great plastic waste. We’ll do our best to remain a repository for things you might like to see but not own. Because we’re just about the closest thing that there is to home entertainment heaven.


Let’s Talk VHS

You may have seen us talking VHS on The One Show on Tuesday night. If you didn’t, then you can catch up online via the iPlayer (we’re at around 12 mins in):

Since the show aired we’ve been inundated with calls and emails asking us if we want to take on home collections. For the most part, the only titles we do keep on VHS are those that aren’t available on DVD in this country. That means that about 95% of the time we already have what you have. Still, if you think you might have something super rare (if you’ve a video nasties collection you no longer need for example), then do send us a list of titles. That way we can check them out and let you know if we can take them off your hands.

Even though magnetic tape is in no way a superior, or even stable, format, there is a whole heap of nostalgia that surrounds it. It’s a strange beast, VHS, because we’ve reached a point where we don’t know what to do with them any more. No one wants them. Charity stores have been overrun with home collections, recycling plants have closed down and you can’t just chuck them out with your regular rubbish. To this end, eBay is fast becoming the best place to offload the clunky old things.

But because we do have a hoard of great films that we can’t get on DVD, we keep a couple of thousand in the shop, along with a VCR or two, to rent out to those of you whose viewing habits won’t be hindered by the arrival of discs and streaming.


And if you do love VHS, and indeed 20th century video shop culture, then we’d like to extend an invitation to you to attend one of our Scalarama strands: VHStival. Throughout September, every Saturday night – that’s the 5th, 12th, 19th & 26th – we’re running some late night lucky dip VHS celebratory hang outs!

We’ll be screening stuff from our weird and wonderful collection in both the Kino and at the counter from 10pm till around 12am. It’s free to turn up, seats won’t be allocated as it’s more of a ‘drop in and hang about’ kind of thing than an actual screening. We’ll have tea, coffee, soft drinks and popcorn on the go, plus you can do some late night film renting if you like.

I’d also like to encourage people to share their video shop stories – in person, or via email if you can’t come along and hang out on our VHStival nights. Video shops aren’t just for renting movies, they’re also spaces for conversations about films. So come along, have a chat, a damn fine coffee and duck into the Kino for a bit to see something of this ilk:

While We’re Young

It screened at the Showcase and at the Cube but somehow I missed it. Now that it’s made its way onto DVD, I’ve taken the time to catch up.


I think I like Noah Baumbach films. It’s difficult to be sure because even though I did enjoy Greenberg (2010), I really didn’t like Margot at the Wedding (2007), and I just can’t be sure about The Squid and the Whale (2005) because when I saw it I was kind of being stood up by my sort of boyfriend of the time. As a result I pretty much cried the entire way through the movie. I still don’t know whether or not that has anything to do with the movie being sad. Or if the movie even is sad.


While We’re Young (2014) (I’ve left Frances Ha out of the discussion because even though I love that movie (obvs) it’s totes all Greta Gerwig) has made me think that, actually, maybe I don’t like Noah Baumbach films. It’s one of those identifiably, entertainingly, jovial yet sort of empty meta movies. Though it comes next in a trajectory of and aspires to be an enjoyably nihilistic film, it’s far too aware of its own constructive elements to be earnest enough to pull it off.

My dislike for Baumbach’s latest aside, what the film did achieve was in making me think a little about how my life is characterised by my generation – whichever of those it might be…


Sort of like living in a double diaspora (am I British or Australian ffs?), I’m kind of stuck between generations. I think I’m technically Gen X. I might be wrong about that – is the cut off 1980 or 1981? Either way, there’s absolutely no way I’m Gen Y. I only just found out what a selfie stick is and I don’t use the word literally when I mean figuratively or metaphorically. And yeah, I’m still on hotmail. But what I might be, is belonging to a generation-less generation, one devoid of any defining characteristics – including slackerism. A kind of NeverEnding Story style Nothing, if you will. How very Heideggerian of me.

So I guess While We’re Young should be a movie that speaks to me; it’s true that I know people who keep chickens, make all their own stuff, wear pork pie hats and think authenticity – especially when it comes to formats; vinyl, paper, typewriters – is ironic. But most of those people are around five to seven years younger than me. It’s also true that I know people who spend way too much time attached to their devices and totally think it’s acceptable to send romantic messages via email/text/facebook/twitter instead of talking to each other while the majority of their peers are getting married, having babies and/or buying houses in the burbs.



Unfortunately, these dry observations aside, there’s not lots that I can identify with in the film. Probably because no one, no matter how aware they are of their generational tropes, is quite that smug IRL.

There is a moment in the film, however, that really struck me, but for its inability to engage with the intergenerational generation – you know, the generation-less one I mentioned earlier – and that is where  Adam Driver’s character carefully puts a video tape into a VCR before cutting to Ben Stiller’s character browsing Netflix.

Where are the DVDs?

While I do recall VHS extremely well, and while I still do watch them from time to time (we have somewhere around 2,500 of them in the store), I am, at heart and in tangible forms, all about digital versatile discs. The only online content I ever watch are preview screeners.


Of course, even I can acknowledge that this might have less to do with which generation I belong to and more to do with the fact that I work in a video shop. Some of my friends, who are my age, have Netflix. The major difference, then, I suppose, is that even though they have it, they don’t watch it exclusively. And that’s because they’re not self-aware jackasses playing po-faced stereotypes in a post-postmodern attempt at ironic  nihilism. Which, I guess, is because real life is not much like a Noah Baumbach movie.

Totes Good Film Quiz: August 3rd

DJ WillSpinz is taking another break (slacker), so the Australian Feminist is going to join Mr Bags for some quizzical times in August!

She has promised to make her questions a little easier – but no less feminist. There will also be a return of Aussie mi Nozzie…

Film Quiz Poster August

The rest is stuff you know – turn up for 7pm, buy yourself a pint, pay a pound per person and answer as best you can. Heckling encouraged if it’s funny but discouraged if mean.