Many people have some ancient VHS cassettes lying around their homes or in storage. Given that the format died out well over a decade ago and the world’s last VCR was made in 2016, most of them end up being thrown away or given to charity shops. For the owner of the UK’s only video store, however, they’re more than just trash, which is why he made a 600-mile round trip to rescue 20,000 VHS tapes destined for a landfill.
Andy Johnson opened the VideOdyssey VHS rental store in Toxteth, Liverpool, back in 2018 and has been overwhelmed by the support and popularity it has received. As reported by the BBC, the business featured on a movie lovers’ bucket list by Time Out Magazine that included Hobbiton in New Zealand and the Ghostbusters firehouse in New York.
VideOdyssey had contained 15,000 tapes, but that figure has more than doubled since Johnson made a 300-mile journey to Dundee in Scotland to collect another 20,000+ VHS cassettes, which, as they cannot be recycled, would have ended up in a landfill. The collection was being stored in three lock-up garages.
“I was just absolutely amazed when I got the phone call,” he told the BBC. “The guy who got these lock-ups told me it could be more than 20,000 so we are quite excited.”
Most people of a certain age look back on the VHS era wearing rose-tinted nostalgia glasses. They were an intrinsic part of our childhoods, so we can forgive the low resolutions, tracking problems, fuzziness, and often crap sound. Despite the quality issues that worsen over time, Johnson believes that the format is seeing a resurgence.
“VHS is starting to have a similar comeback seen with vinyl. People want that physical connection to their favourite films, rather than the cold experience of playing something from the cloud,” he said. “A lot of amazing movies were never brought out digitally and they’re in danger of being lost forever.”
It was 2019 when one of the two remaining Blockbuster stores in the world closed down, leaving a sole outlet in Bend, Oregon. At the height of last year’s lockdowns, it started offering nineties-style sleepovers in the store.