Netflix, Redbox, Hulu, Amazon, and several other sources have all pushed video rental stores to the brink. But believe it or not, there are still a few video stores hidden like Easter eggs across the landscape. It wasn’t always this way. For more than two decades, video rental stores were the best place to get your movie fix outside of a theater. And they had a lot of advertising dollars, leading to some ads that look hilarious now in retrospect. Enjoy!
1981 was a long, long time ago. It was so long ago that Raging Bull, Ordinary People, and The Jazz Singer with Neil Diamond were hot new releases at Wherehouse Video.
This ad is for West Coast Video, whose name is a misnomer since the chain was founded in Philadelphia. You have to appreciate that the “celebrity” that they chose for their impersonation was Peter Sellers as Jacques Clouseau. They also boast a “unique computer system.”
How about a 1980s Blockbuster ad that includes anthropomorphic video tapes made to look like Frankenstein and what appears to be Mae West?
Blockbuster had enough money in the ad budget to create this ad, completely targeted at children and/or adults who enjoy animated viking spaceship dinosaur movies.
Here’s a Hollywood video ad featuring Mr. Movie Trailer Voice Guy, Don LaFontaine:
Erol’s Video Store started small in Virginia and Washington, DC in the 1980s, and the chain expanded as far west as Cleveland and Indianapolis before Blockbuster bought them out in the early 1990s. This Erol’s ad is from 1984. Pause it at 15 seconds for the extraordinarily rare opportunity to see the words “risky”, “smurf”, and “pussy” right next to each other and giggle like a 12-year-old.
There’s only one way you can improve upon a convenience store hot dog and a Slurpee. And that’s by renting a VHS tape at your local 7-11, where you can find great movies like F/X and April Fool’s Day. It’s ipecac for the soul!
Even studios got into the action. In this case, it’s Paramount employing a dog who rents movies in a 3-minute ad for… well, any video rental place you can find, apparently.
In the 80s, you didn’t even really need a store. This ad for Video Mailbox seems oddly prescient now, even if the VHS tapes were probably delivered by Tibetan yak.
As a special bonus, here’s a 1990 Blockbuster training ad, which screams “1990!!!” You can almost hear Ralph Wiggum’s voice saying, “When I grow up, I want to go to BLOCKBUSTER University!” It may be incomplete, though, as I don’t see the part where they charge you $500 in Madison, Wisconsin for never returning Pulp Fiction on VHS. Hypothetically, of course.