An Ode to Family Video

by Archer Parquette
Milwaukee Magazine

Listen close. Raise your eyes to the heavens, train your ears, and you will hear the mournful choirs, the cherubim and seraphim, they weep for the cruelty, the loss, the despair below.

Family Video is dead.

It was too much to hope for, that our last remaining video store could continue to hold out. We know  this, but still the pain.

Lacrimosa dies illa. Qua resurget ex favilla. Judicandus homo reus. Huic ergo parce, Deus: Pie Jesu Domine, Dona eis requiem. Amen.

First Hollywood Video, then Blockbuster, and now Family Video, the best of all the video rental stores, just announced that they’ll be closing all 250 of their remaining locations.

“The impact of COVID-19, not only in foot traffic but also in the lack of movie releases, pushed us to the end of an era,” wrote Keith Hoogland, the company’s president.

The end of an era indeed. For the past few years, there was a great comfort in seeing my local Family Video still standing proud after all their rental brothers had fallen. It was a callback to a different time, arguably a much better time.

But of course, this end was inevitable, seeing as Family Video had been surviving by the skin of its teeth for about a decade now. Selling Marco’s Pizzas with a DVD can only get you so far in the streaming era.

Now that the last stores are officially shuttering, I’m reminded of all the good times we had together.

Your shelves were always full, my sweet, fallen friend. Your DVDs, your Blu-Rays, your television boxes sets, which for some reason I had to rent disc by disc instead of just the whole season at once, which was irritating as all hell, but that’s ok now. I forgive you.

Yes, I know that your discs were often scratched. I would put them into my player, watch about twelve minutes of the movie, and then the movie would freeze and skip, and a stench of burning would emit from the disc drive. But sometimes the discs would work, and those times were beautiful.

And the video games — you were always the best with the games. So many Xbox 360 games snatched from your shelves for just a few dollars. A childhood of sitting in dark rooms with a controller in my hand burning my eyes two inches from a screen wouldn’t have been possible without all those cheap rentals.

And the … the …

I’m sorry — give me a moment.

I normally don’t get so emotional, but damn…

The candy. Family Video, you always had the best freaking candy. I would shove Warheads in my face until I was crying like a baby. Such a wide, exotic collection of teeth-rotting, artificially-flavored, laboratory-made strangeness. Blockbuster never had it so good. A few cavities is a small price to pay.

And finally, something near and dear to my heart — the Report Card promotion.  For every A on my report card, you gave me a free rental. You’re the only reason I got into college, Family Video. I want you to know that.

Now it’s all over.

Words cannot contain the extent of this loss.

Family Video — Rest in Peace.
January 11, 2021