Film The first copy of the The Big Chill I owned was a first wave VHS rental release bought at a car boot sale. The inlay was appalling. Badly trimmed out image of the ensemble slapped onto a cyan background, it featured a synopsis which looked like it had been dictated down an especially bad telephone line to someone who wasn't a film professional and thought an actor called "Jess Coldblulm" existed. But the tape itself was perfectly fine and ended up being watched about once a month for a few years, sometimes in a double bill with 1992's Grand Canyon (also an ex-rental) for no reason other than that they were both directed by Lawrence Kasdan and starred Kevin Kline.
You can probably imagine what happened when the younger version of me discovered that he could buy films for a pound each at car boot sales. Every Sunday morning dragged to either the multi-story car park in St Helens, or the cricket club on Aigburth Road or a massive wasteland in Bootle, handed some pocket money and sent off to forage, returning on most occasions with ten or fifteen tapes. In the years before Netflix and Lovefilm, this was my Netflix and Lovefilm, across genres and periods, selections made based on how quickly I could scoop the films up before someone else grabbed them and whether I recognised an actor on the cover or (later) the name of a director.
Disney films would be at least £5 for reason I've later realised were to do with some tapes only being available for short periods of time in shops (towards the end of watching my way through the lot, they recently re-released everything on dvd on mass and now they're available in Tescos). Same Star Wars before they were released on dvd. It was always obvious which seller was simply having a clear out and who knew exactly the worth of what they had. Also there were pitious numbers who when you asked how much their tapes were would say the gut wrenching words, "Oh um, they're all different prices ..." But I don't have time for this!
Eventually I migrated from car boots to "legitimate" media sales chains and charity shops (and I replaced my VHS of The Big Chill with a DVD bought at the old Virgin Megastores XS (which has since been replaced with Zavvi, a Music Zone, then nothing) (the WH Smith has gone too)). You are more likely to find the interesting oddities in these places but the selection is increasingly homogenized. In Chester the other week I saw a copy of All About Steve in at least five outlets. No I didn't buy it. Instead I found the Gere starring remake of Breathless, Gigantic (with Zooey) and the German comedy Kokowääh. No, me either but as with The Big Chill all those years ago, I was intrigued.
Now, after about fifteen years, I recently returned to boots and tables and was pleased to discover that nothing much has changed. It's still entirely possible to spend the same amount of money and walk away with as many films, especially now that dvd is at about the point VHS was then, with sellers replacing or simply getting rid of their collections. Plus there's somewhat less pressure it seems with some boxes and bags on floors left untouched for ages so there's plenty of time to look which is useful because of the secondary problem of trying to remember if a given title is available to stream at home.
Except, with so many other viewing options now it feels more redundant with the exception of material from boutique publishers and television series. The thrill of the chase has all but dissipated, knowing full well that I'm unlikely to stumble on someone selling their BFI back catalogue or Criterions and I'm not sure I have the patience now to persist in returning on the off chance. Plus children like me then are notable by their absence now which makes me wonder if the contemporary version of this trainee cineaste would have received their first introduction to You Can't Always Get What You Want via a cover version played on a church organ at a funeral.