Video rentals spike during the holidays. Maybe it’s because people have extra time off, or maybe it’s because they want a dose of warm and fuzzy to go with everything else the season offers.
Movie lovers have lots of options. They can stream films through services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. They can get them at kiosks like Redbox in malls or at grocery stores. Or they can check cable listings for holiday film marathons.
However, for a large group of film lovers, the local video rental store is a major go-to source for movies.
Danielle Bell, owner of Video Quick in Talent, and Scott Garriott, a long time employee of Video Explorer in Ashland, can attest to that.
“People like the service and convenience,” Bell said, who bought Video Quick two years ago after working for the former owners for 10 years.
Bell, a vivacious and enthusiastic young woman, said customers often ask for recommendations, and she takes that job seriously.
“People are trusting me with a precious commodity — their free time.”
She engages them in a dialogue in order to gauge their interests. “Even a ‘no’ helps,” she said.
Garriott, who has worked for Video Explorer and owner Steve Lanusse for 10 years, is a laid-back, soft-spoken guy. He enjoys guiding customers through the store’s eclectic collection when they need help.
“We’re really busy during the Christmas season, especially the last two weeks,” he said. “But even then, besides the usual holiday movies, 'Star Wars' and 'Game of Thrones' are popular choices.”
Garriott said the store normally rents newer films for one night, but older films are routinely checked out for three nights.
“If people rent three or more films, we can give them more nights,” he said. That’s a common practice over weekends or during holidays.
Bell said she has 7,000 videos in stock and another 3,000 in her “warehouse,” which is what she calls the spare room in her house.
Just for fun, from her video inventory she compiled a list of films with a Christmas connection. A five-page computer print-out listed 212.
On the list are several that might surprise. "Diehard" and "Diehard 2" are both Christmas season stories. Robert Downey in "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is a character who steals a toy for Christmas. Even 'Lethal Weapon" has an association with the holidays.
There are two Christmas films Bell especially likes.
“My personal favorites are 'Scrooged' with Bill Murray and 'The Santa Claus' with Tim Allen, which taught me a lot about sarcasm,” she said, laughing.
Garriott didn’t have to think long about his favorite holiday movie. “That’s easy. For me, 'It’s A Wonderful Life' is the best.” The 1946 film stars Jimmy Stewart as a troubled businessman whom an angel helps realize what life would have been like if he had never existed.
This time of year, parents are often looking for a “family” movie. Bell is up to the challenge.
“I try to suggest something that the kids will sit still for and yet won’t make the parents want to gouge out their eyes or ears,” she said.
Bell said she has always loved films.
“I can visualize my whole life by the movies I’ve seen. Movies remind me of good times and bad, and always recall strong emotions,” she said.
Video Quick is at 100 W. Valley View Road in Talent. Video Explorer is at 320 Oak St. in Ashland.
Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland.