The Great American Video Store Documentary

A documentary feature about the Death (and Life!) of the American Video Store.


Directed by filmmaker/former video store employee James Westby (RID OF ME, FILM GEEK), this documentary feature will explore how drastically the industry of home video has morphed. From the early mom n' pop rental outfits to the rise (and fall) of big chain stores, to the introduction of extremely popular Internet Delivery Systems like Netflix and iTunes-- this film will contemplate the increasing de-personalization of our home entertainment options.  Furthermore, we will attempt to suss out where this all might be headed in the future.    

By interviewing video store owners, employees, customers, and film professionals in NYC, LA, Portland, Austin, Seattle, Chicago and SF, we hope to elucidate this issue and above all, to help preserve the brick-and-mortar video store experience.  

Our interviewees thus far include:

-John Sloss, entertainment lawyer and producer
-Dana Harris, Editor-in-Chief of Indiewire
-Mark Mohan, owner Video Verite
-Mike Clark, owner Movie Madness
-Kent McCarty, owner Great American Video & Espresso
-David Walker, film historian
-Aaron Hillis, owner Video Free Brooklyn
-Alex Ross Perry, filmmaker

...and more!


The best thing about the current video rental market is that locally owned stores continue to thrive. There are many in Portland, OR that we have already visited. Most of the funds raised in this campaign will go towards schlepping us to New York City, Austin, San Francisco, Los Angles and Seattle to discover more local gems across the country and meet the characters that make them great.

A portion, of course, will also go to editing, equipment, and feeding ourselves and Mouse, the production office cat.

Everyone who donates will receive a gift but there are many elaborate incentives detailed below. Check them out!


Without our patronage, video stores will surely cease to exist. By getting the word out, we hope to help these stores increase their customer base and remind people why video rental stores are such an intregal part of our culture.


In the late 1970's, with the advent of Beta and VHS, video rental stores began popping up around the country. Suddenly movies, which were only viewable in the theaters or in an edited version on TV, could be watched as often as you wanted, whenever you wanted, in the privacy of your own home.  

Like most industries, the small mom and pop shops were soon overshadowed by their large corporate counter parts. These conglomerates, though they lacked in selection, were able to control most of the home video market because of their ability to have unlimited copies of the hot new movies.  

As technology advanced so did video format.  VHS gave way to DVD, and with that the price of buying a movie dropped drastically.  Suddenly anyone could have a home video library.  DVD sales became a necessary component of all video stores revenue.  

When the internet came on to the scene, streaming video sites such as Netflix arrived.  Suddenly with just a few clicks, you could instantly watch whatever you wanted in your home. Ironically, online streaming and digital downloads appealed to the same public that frequented the large chains.  So, while Blockbuster and Hollywood video fell in the wake of Netflix, small local video stores were able to continue on.  

What are we losing by watching movies from the internet? The community of a video store. The tactile experience of flipping through the boxes on the racks, reading the synopses, and looking at the pictures on the box.

Other Ways You Can Help

Just because you can't contribute monetarily doesn't mean you can't help. Let people know! Send folks this link! Also turn off your Netflix, shut down your computer and go rent a movie at your local video store!

Team on This Campaign: