When I moved to Atlanta in 2007 the Internet had not fully surpassed movie rental shops. There was a Blockbuster on Ponce as well as Movies Worth Seeing in Morningside, known for its selection of difficult-to-find and foreign titles. For a time, they were popular and thriving; however, both of these spots have since closed in the wake of Netflix, Redbox and online streaming services.
And yet, a single movie rental shop remains and thrives in the new digital era: Videodrome.
The iconic building is located at the corner of North and North Highland avenues across from everyone’s favorite gas station, Buddy’s, in Poncey-Highland. The shop has seen me in many different phases of my life. There were hungover days, groggily fumbling for a Mystery Science Theater that I hadn’t already watched a million times. There were first dates, films for class, girls’ nights, sick days, the whole lot.
Videodrome is an institution, a tribute to the love of film and cinema. Their selection is massive, with genres that vary from specific to broad. New movies are added to their collection constantly, featured on their main wall before being worked into the general shelves. Behind the desk and on the counter sit an army of figurines and toys amassed over the years.
Walking among the tightly packed shelves, it’s easy to lose track of time. Old movies play on TVs suspended from the corners of the room, and people quietly mill about browsing titles. The clerks have always been incredibly knowledgeable, most of them having worked there for many years. In another throwback, Videodrome uses a system of paper tickets in addition to a computer to keep track of the ever growing and evolving movie selection.
Matt Owensby, resident “Videoman” and newsletter editor, has been working at Videodrome for a decade. I asked him how an independent movie rental store has survived while others have gone out of business.
“I’d say our location has been a big factor. We’re on a very visible corner. Our parking lot sucks, but at least people know where we are. Our store is pretty cozy too. People like coming in and hanging out.”
Matt also attributed the store’s steadfastness to community ties and a loyal customer base of film lovers. They sometimes sponsor film-related projects like Buried Alive, and their presence can be seen during events like Atlanta Streets Alive when the parking lot becomes a party destination.
“Our customers are great, and it’s rewarding to provide lots of cool folks good stuff to watch,” he said.
Anytime I have had questions about movies, needed suggestions or generally wanted to talk to someone about film or cinema, the folks behind the counter at Videodrome have been the most kind and helpful.
“It’s nice when famous faces drop by, too,” Matt said, pointing to some of the pictures and memorabilia on the wall. “Peter Fonda and Bill Paxton stopped by and said hey this year. B-movie icon Wings Hauser was kind enough to reach out to us and send us a care package of autographs and stills a couple of months ago.”
Another memorable star sighting: Woody Harrelson.
“Nice guy, dressed in about 80 percent hemp,” Matt recalled. “He hung out and talked for a while. The weird thing is that we all pretended he wasn’t a super famous actor. We knew who he was, he knew that we knew, but we all just had this weird, stilted conversation that danced around the subject entirely.”
I asked Matt what genres or areas of the shop that he would recommend checking out, and he listed the film noir section, documentaries, and cult/horror. “All of our sections have lots of sub-sections, which make it easy to get sucked down a genre rabbit-hole.”
For more information about Videodrome, which is open from noon to midnight seven days a week, check out their website at videodromeatl.com.
See more photos at Isadora Pennington’s blog at this link.
I love this story, and I love the store! Don’t go there nearly often enough. It’s a glorious throwback to times past, present, and I fervently hope, the future! Thank you for writing about it.
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