Friday, September 30, 2011

The Death of Rocket Video

It is with great sadness that I write this post about the demise of yet another business in my neighborhood. Today was supposed to be the last day of Rocket Video... located at 315 N. La Brea. But the owners have given it another one week reprieve to sell off more of their catalog. Pretty much everything is for sale and the prices are dropping. You should stop by a take a look.

I can't even begin to say how insanely cool Rocket Video was. I was a frequent customer of theirs for 15 years. Rocket Video, along with Vidiots in Santa Monica, was one of only two really amazing video stores in Los Angeles. Rocket had everything...and I do mean everything! They had obscure French movies, Russian movies, Hong Kong movies, Japanese Animation.

Celebrities used the store repeatedly. I was once wandering the aisles and I ran into Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton. I had a nice chat with them for about five minutes. Another time I was checking out at the register and the customer in front of me was Dutch supermodel Frederique Van Der Wal. The employees could tell you boatloads of stories about the things that went on there. They even had special event nights where you could come and listen to a writer or director talk about a certain movie they had produced or worked on in the past.

20 years ago when it started, Rocket Video rented and sold VHS videotapes. Eventually Rocket made the transition from videotapes to DVDs, but the next transition, to digital content, was the one that really killed the business. Competition from Netflix, which didn't charge late fees, had been a problem... but the advent of digital content was the one that really finished off Rocket. The fact that people can now punch a few buttons on their remote control and order movies that are not yet released in DVD form is going to be problematic for many video stores in the future. The gigantic video chain Blockbuster - with 3,400 stores - just filed for bankruptcy. That tells you how bad things are getting for the DVD retail business.

One of the things I will miss the most with Rocket was the sense of surprise and wonderment you got from strolling the aisles there. I rented French movies, Hong Kong action flicks, Vietnamese films... all because I had a chance to see them in physical form and read a blurb about them on the jewel box case. Now, unfortunately, I believe I will get stuck with ordering only big studio blockbusters on Directv.

I stopped by Rocket several times in the last few weeks and loaded up on the many obscure favorites I had found over the years. A Russian movie about Cuba. A Brazilian TV series. An old, obscure TV series called "Kolchak, The Night Stalker" that I had loved as a kid.

Nobody is going to have these anymore.

The Hong Kong action section at Rocket Video will never be duplicated by anyone in America...ever again. It's very sad.

Stop by and give them some business.

If you ever loved the old English comedy series "Benny Hill", you can stop by and purchase the whole series.

That is... if I don't get there first.