After nearly three decades, the end credits roll for Greensboro’s Video Review

by Mark Burger

Greensboro’s Video Review movie-rental palace goes the way of the Betamax. (photos by Ryan Snyder)

All good things come to an end, and after 27 years Video Review in Greensboro is closing its doors for good.

Having outlasted competition from such corporate juggernauts as Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and West Coast Video (the latter pair long gone), weathered nearly 30 years of change in the marketplace and inspired a loyal customer base in and around Greensboro, owner Jim Laws decided to call it a day. But what a day it’s been.

The main store has never strayed far from Battleground Avenue, its latest (and last) incarnation located on Westover Terrace. For a time, there was a second store on Adams Farm Road. Even after that store closed, the main store still did well.

There isn’t a single, sudden reason why Video Review is shuttering. There has been a slow, steady erosion of business, explained Law. Accessibility to rentals is far easier in the 21 st century, due to mail-order outlets (Netflix being the best-known) and online downloading.

“Hey, after 27 years there are too many alternatives,” Laws said. “There have been a lot of changes in the industry. Business had slowly dissipated to a point where it just wasn’t practical anymore.”

Not that Laws is complaining. Video Review has had a long, lucrative run.

Business thrived during the VHS boom of the 1980s and survived through its fall in the late ’90s and the subsequent rise of DVD. Unlike the majority of home-video outlets, Video Review didn’t immediately get rid of its VHS selection when DVD came onto the scene. There’s a sizable selection of both on Video Review’s shelves, and according to Laws that was intentional.

“A movie’s a movie,” he reasoned. “We just wanted to have as many as we could.”

As a result, during the years of VHS-to- DVD transition, “we were steady and stable for quite awhile.”

Indeed, the shelves of Video Review are lined with VHS boxes from companies long gone, some that expired in far less time than the store which carried them: Cannon, Embassy, Hemdale, Nelson, Magnetic, Vestron, Lighting, Thorn-EMI, Media, Trans World. The oversized Warner and MGM video boxes are nostalgic reminders of the early days of VHS. Indeed, Video Review may be one of the last stores in which the receipt reminds you “Be Kind. Rewind.”

Holding onto those VHS titles may prove lucrative in the long run, as many of the films in the store’s collection that are currently unavailable in other formats often fetch high prices on the internet — an option that Laws and his wife are already pursuing.

Laws first entered the video-rental arena at Video Connection, yet another chain that went belly-up years before but prospered in the early 1980s, so much so that it inspired Laws to try his hand. “Like a lot of people, I wanted to have a business of my own.”

Laws points out that Video Review wouldn’t have endured as long as it has without a dedicated staff (14 at its peak, six currently) and faithful customers. Even with only a few days until closing, there’s still a steady stream of them coming and going. To a person, each expresses fond wishes, fond memories and a bit of sadness that a local mainstay will soon be no more. Some customers are still making reservations for new movies, and the staff is still taking them — “right to the last minute,” quipped Nicholas White, who has worked at Video Review for three years.

White’s family has had a Video Review membership as far back as he can remember.

“It’s been fun,” he said. “I’ll definitely miss the customers, and it’s been nice to have direct access to a movie.”

Paul Jacobs has worked 16 years at Video Review. “It’s the best video store in town, hands down,” he said, “and it’s sad saying goodbye to our long-time customers.”

“It’s been great,” Laws said. “We had a lot of fun, we built up a lot of good relationships, the customers are the best in the world… we had a lot of big days.”