1979 – 2016
January 2016 hasn’t been a very happy month in the entertainment world, and today’s news of the liquidation of the beloved Irish video rental chain “Xtra-Vision” proves to be the sting in January’s tail that we sometimes feared, but never expected.
The news broke today that one of the last remaining video store chains was going into liquidation, with the future of the 550 jobs bleakly set to be lost. The massive market share of online media and downloads over DVD and Blu Ray sales were placed as the blame for recent difficulties, and with the company struggling to remain on the level, something had to give. And sadly, today was the day this happened.
You don’t have to go that far back to find a time where the local video store was the Mecca for film buffs and where so many weekends began. I mean hell, nearly everyone grew up with the weekly trip to either the cinema, or down town to rent a movie. It was up until this week, a staple of our lives.
I still have fond memories of going to Xtra-Vision to pick up some new releases not just in movies, but also video games and even music. It was where we purchased our Super Nintendo, as well as the Sony Playstation. In the mid to late 1990’s when the Internet was only just starting to get itself together, the store held an image of something special – where so many great memories, love for movies, addiction to videogames, were all found under one bright and glowing roof. For the moving-image format, it was the equivalent of a Toy Store.
Over the past ten years or so, as the digital boom was really getting into gear, Xtra-Vision was beginning to show the signs of the stress. But while other chains worldwide fell and became only fond memories that faded with passing time, they came through and ploughed on. As my love for films got rekindled I used the place to rent the newest releases on a near-weekly basis. There was an almost intoxicating giddiness in finding the latest big blockbuster, or a hidden gem on the bottom shelf that you’d only heard of in name and praise. Except for cinematic releases that I got a chance to see on the big screen, nearly all of my reviews were from watching home rentals. Being one of the few outlets where Blu Rays were readily available was also a big incentive. Compared to waiting an hour for an online stream to buffer while constantly in the fear of blasting through the data cap at any moment, it was just so much damm easier.
Probably the big reason, why I stuck with it for so long over the many years, was that renting or buying a physical copy of a film or game was my “thing”. The allure of digital content hasn’t beaten my love for having a Blu Ray collection that will always be there and always available. Even though now I will have to re-think how I watch home releases now, that collection will always stay. It must sound mad to people who rely entirely on streaming services or digital downloads, and honestly I can’t argue with your choice. But for me right now, it was why the rental store made so much sense.
So now Xtra-Vision has gone, in the same way that so many outlets have over the past decade or so. Swallowed up in the passing wake of dust of the digital Hyper-Train. The thought really does make me sad, sad to think so few choices are available now if you want to buy a film locally rather than on the likes of Internet Shops. Sad for all the great staff and suppliers who now face uncertainty in a diminishing sector. Sad that I can’t anymore do my shopping in town and then afterwards, check what’s new and if I want to rent it. It’s like finding out that your favourite bar or restaurant shut down overnight – sure there are other options available to you and you won’t starve… but none will be like the one you enjoyed the most.
Xtra-Vision made it through a lot of turbulences over the past few years, and somehow managed to make it this long when in other countries, the mention of a rental store would be met by bemusement. For over 20 years I’ve been passing through the doors just as so many in Ireland have, but now they will close without a farewell. It is a cruel fate to be met with, not in any way their fault. I’m going to with a heavy heart miss their presence near our town.
Thanks for the wonderful memories and service over the years guys, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.