.Stairwell Video Revives Lost VHS Rental Experience in Petaluma

Kids may find this hard to believe, but before the days of online streaming services like Netflix, people who wanted to watch a movie in their home had to drive to what they called a “Video Rental Store.” These stores contained hundreds of movies, held on giant black bricks called VHS tapes. Once a VHS was selected, the movie was brought home and watched on a colossal machine known as the VCR.

Crazy, right? Yet, we all did it, night after night. It was an American institution. We loved browsing the outrageous box art, turning the case over in our hand to read the information on the back and taking our selections to the front counter to rent the VHS of our choice for two-to-five days at a time.

Today, there are still a few movie rental shops like Video Droid and Joe Video in business, but they deal in Blu-ray and DVD formats. In fact, the last VHS movie release, “A History of Violence,” is ten years old and the last VCR-producing company in the world is set to shut its VCR-machine division down this month, meaning the format will officially become obsolete; a relic of a brief, yet glorious, time in film history.

This week, in honor of the end of the VCR, local conceptual artists Daedalus Howell and Karen Hell are hosting the nostalgic interactive art installation Stairwell Video, on Friday, July 29, in downtown Petaluma.

Located inside the stairwell of a century-old Victorian house, Stairwell Video faithfully recreates the ’80s VHS rental experience for one night only. Participants will get a store membership card, select a video and rent their movie. Limited edition “Stairwell Video” t-shirts and a popcorn and Champagne reception are also part of the night, never to be recreated again.

To reserve free tickets and receive location information, click here.


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