Five Surviving Video Stores in the Philadelphia Area
Video stores were something very unique in American culture: They went from not existing, to an indispensable part of American life, to not existing again, all within about 25 years. But with the advent of Netflix-by-mail, and later streaming, video stores are all but out of sight and have been for several years.
Philadelphia is actually an important city in the American video store story. West Coast Video, despite its name, was founded in Northeast Philadelphia in 1983 and grew at its largest to over 600 stores before the corporation folded in 2009 (a few retail locations remain, mostly in Canada.) TLA Video opened its first location next to the Theater of the Living Arts on South Street in 1985 and grew into a nationally respected chain that even stretched to New York, before the last of the stores closed in 2012. The last Blockbuster in Philadelphia was shuttered in 2013.
However, despite the virtual death of the video store business model, a handful of stores in the region are keeping the tradition going. Some have combined movies with other offerings, while others have begun to phase out video rentals in favor of video production and other businesses. But others still have gone all-in on appealing to a clientele of serious cinephiles. Philadelphia also, it should perhaps go without saying, continues to boast numerous adult video stores.
Five Remaining Video Stores in Philadelphia:
1. Viva Video (16 W. Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore.)
Viva Video is an old-school, old-fashioned video store for serious cinema buffs. Dubbed "The Last Picture Store," Viva Video was opened in 2012 by the former manager of the Bryn Mawr location of TLA Video. The place offers rentals and sales, and boasts a huge selection of new releases and older titles, in numerous formats (VHS, DVD and Blu-ray.) Its website stats that the store is devoted to "keeping alive the beloved tradition of physical video rental and friendly film discourse on the Main Line."
2. The Video Store (4354 New Falls Rd., Levittown).
Bucks County's The Video Store is another old-school holdout, offering rentals of older and newer movies, in addition to other services (digital photo printing, video transfer services, and even passports and notary services.) The store has been in business for 35 years and managed to outlast a Blockbuster location that was open across the street for a large chunk of that time.
3. Cinemug (1607 S Broad St, Philadelphia.)
Cinemug, which opened in early 2015 on South Broad Street in the city's East Passyunk neighborhood, is both a coffee shop and video rental outlet. The shop's site claims a "curated collection of over 1,600 movies," on DVD and Blu-ray, including numerous specialty films not available on Netflix. Cinemug also boasts locally roasted beans from ReAnimator Coffee.
5. FYE (100 S. Broad Street, plus locations in Franklin Mills and Plymouth Meeting.)
FYE is the last of the old national music-and-video store chains with a big presence in Philly, including a store on Broad Street right across the street from City Hall. No rentals anymore, but you can still buy DVDs there.
Stephen Silver is a journalist who has lived in Philadelphia for 11 years. A father of two, his work has appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, New York Press, SB Nation, The Daily Banter, CSNPhilly.com, the Good Men Project, Chatterblast's The Lightning Strike, Splice Today, Screenrant.com and the Philadelphia area's Patch websites. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.