01 May 2014

Thomas Video

Thomas Video is closing its doors. It was a landmark video store in Metro Detroit, the one that wasn't a corporation, the one that offered films that couldn't be found anywhere else. When I lived in the area, I went to Thomas Video many times, but not every time. I should have.

In my memory, Thomas Video is the place that introduced me to the Criterion Collection. Some summer night in early college, my friends and I went there and browsed. Each film was "Oh, I've heard of this!," something we couldn't find anywhere else but a place like Thomas Video, many bearing the Criterion label. We ended up renting Man Bites Dog.

It was a moment.

That same summer, or another summer, we rented Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. My friends had heard of it, and we talked about it in the aisles of Thomas Video, rumors of what it depicted: This film is crazy. This film will mess you up. It was before Criterion reissued the film, its DVD long out of print and worth considerable cash money. To rent Thomas Video's copy, one needed to put down a $100 deposit or leave behind a credit card. We had to wait until one of us actually got a credit card, and when he did, one of the first things we did was rent Salò. "Boom!" he announced, slapping his credit card on the counter alongside the DVD box. That night, we watched the film, the dread growing each time a title screen announced a new circle.

It was a moment.

Years later, post-college: I hang out with my friends Lorin and Rachel. They have just met. One early evening, we go to Thomas Video to rent a film. We settle on something I suggest. We take it back to my parent's house and watch it. Not long after, Lorin and Rachel begin dating and eventually marry. I like to think it began that evening, as we watched the film I selected, a heart-swooning romance about a young man's coming of age: Come and See.

It was a moment.

After I moved away, my friends would update me about Thomas Video. It moved to a new location. The heat stopped working. They rented the unrated director's cut of the small art film GI Joe: Retaliation from there. I wanted to know these updates. Thomas Video contained some of our best moments. Somewhere, it always will.

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