Houston, TX Tapehead Jason Champion Creates CHAMPION VIDEO: a Functional and Fantastic Video Rental Store in His Own Home!
Contrary to common belief, the video store isn't quite dead. And if you're regularly tuned in to Lunchmeat Land, you'll know this to be VHSolid fact. But if not, we welcome you to our VHS-obsessed domain with a few choice examples to support our notion: The classic chain of Family Video is still alive and finding ways to thrive out in the mid-west, Scarecrow Video has become a marvelous mecca of movies, indie start-up Old Skool Video is defying the odds in Nebraska and a hardy army of video stores like Viva Video in Ardmore, PA, Visart Video in Charlotte, NC, and many others are keeping the dream of overflowing aisles of movies and human-to-human cinema recommendation alive.
But Houston, TX-based rewind-era revivalist Jason Champion has decided to bring the video rental dream home. Similar to the spirit of Bradley Creanzo's basement video rental destination as seen in Adjust Your Tracking, Jason's CHAMPION VIDEO is a fully-functional video rental location with over 4,000 home video titles ready to invade your VCR, all flanked by an awesome array of video store essentials like movie posters, trading cards, radical snacks and a play-it-free arcade machine, all set up in the comfort of his own home. And he's already inviting local Tapeheads to get in on the retro-rental experience, memberships and all. Read on, my fellow Videovores, and let’s root through the racks of rewindables at CHAMPION VIDEO...
Come hang with all these creeps and tons of radical rewindable slabs at CHAMPION VIDEO, dude. Your VCR will thank you.
Tells us a little about yourself and your Videovore habits. How long have you been collecting? Any particular slabs you're especially fond of?
I’ve been collecting for about 4-5 years now, but got pretty serious about it about 3 years ago. I’ve always been fascinated by VHS and the cover art since I was a kid, drooling over the awesome movies at the local video stores every time I went in. My favorites are any kind of horror flicks, and anything with ninjas, lasers, and robots in them. Some of my all-time favorites would be Street Trash, Frankenhooker, Dead Alive, Chopping Mall, Terror Vision, and anything by Godfrey Ho, HGL or Argento. Some of the hilariously bad ones I have are Beezbo, the story of an alien that comes to earth and a bunch of kids have to teach him about manners. Also, You on Kazoo, which is a pure train wreck of entertainment.
The insanely cool counter at CHAMPION VIDEO! Rent a Video, yo!!
What was the inspiration to create Champion Video? This is all set up in your house, right?
I would always ride my bike with my brother and sis to a couple local video stores called Aardvark Video and PopnGo in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. I really miss the days of spending time looking for a new movie to watch at the video shop, flipping out over the ridiculously cool (or bad) cover art, etc. The whole experience just made my imagination run wild, you know? We were lucky to have two stores so close by, and the clerks there didn’t care what we rented, so we were able to sneak home some pretty awesome stuff!
So, the whole idea behind Champion Video is to give people that same experience, the thrill of discovering a movie they didn’t know existed or forgot that they loved, and just to have fun with it man. Browsing through titles in person and renting videos was THE thing to do on Friday and Saturday nights, and it’s an experience people don’t think about often anymore. But I find as soon as I bring up the subject, you can see people’s minds going into nostalgia overload, and I really dig that. So,yeah, it’s in my house for now… I have a pretty decent sized collection, and decided to display it all as a functioning replica of a video store, instead of just having them all on a shelf, kind of make it an immersive/interactive thing as a tribute to some of the best days growing up.
Official Membership cards for CHAMPION VIDEO. VHSign me up, man!
Can you fully explain what Champion Video is? Is it functional i.e. Do you rent stuff out to people? Is it just for friends or can strangers come in and rent flicks?
It is completely functional! Everything is organized by genre and in ABC order and cataloged. There are membership applications to fill out in order to get a membership card. With that membership card, friends and close acquaintances can rent out VHS tapes just like the old days. Rentals and memberships are all tracked in an old Commodore 64 computer with a spreadsheet program. I’m working on making a drop off box as we speak. As of now, it’s not open to the public, but that is a dream I have that will hopefully come true one day soon with the right amount of blood, sweat, and beers.
What a beautiful bounty of video rental bliss! And there's more, man! BRING IT ON!!
So you’re planning to offer these rentals to more than your friends at some point, letting the general public come browse your VHSelection?
There’s a lot of stuff in the works! But for now, I just have it set up for friends that rent out tapes, and they are loving the vibe of it, dude. People are way more excited about it than I ever though they would be, and it’s been mind-blowingly great. So, yes, one day I would love to do this to where anyone can come rent tapes.
Yes... Mmmhmmm... I like what you've done here... Home Dubs 5EVA, too.
How many titles are in Champion Video right now? Can you give us details on the selection? Any other cool items in the store? That Alien Pops display is too groovy, man.
For now, there’s a little over 4500… and still growing! I try to be selective and not just get filler stuff, or else it’d be way more. And, thanks dude, the Alien Pops container is one of my favorite pieces that one of my best friends gave me. In fact, a lot of stuff has been donated by friends and people that want to see it happen, and I am forever grateful for that. I’m excited that there’s been so much interest and support in making this whole thing happen! There is a display case with candy, trading cards, VCRs, blank tapes, tape rewinders, and popcorn for people to “buy”. Also, I have a horror themed arcade set on free play, since a lot of old video stores used to have them. Oh man there’s so much more stuff like video store promos, posters, horror and 80s collectibles all over the place, it’s like the 80s threw up everywhere.
A wide shot on CHAMPION VIDEO. That Alien Pops display. Too groovy, dude.
Why do you think it's important to preserve this culture? What are people missing by Redboxing or streaming online?
There are lots of reasons to preserve this culture. I like to compare it to record collecting, man. Sure there are higher quality forms of media out there to watch movies on or listen to music to, but VHS and records were such a huge and nostalgic part of our lives growing up. It sucks seeing people just throw it away or forget about it like it never existed. On a positive note, though, the more I talk to people about the days of VHS and renting movies, I am reassured that it hasn’t been forgotten completely. When I talk to people about the glory days, it’s like you can see this light bulb go off and they come to the realization that, wow, this really was a huge part of growing up, and I miss it, too! It’s like something people have forgotten that they loved so much and just need a little nudge if that makes sense. So when people come check out Champion Video, I can see them being transported in a time machine back to the days of VHS rentals, and that’s very important and special to me to see them react that way.
I think Red Box and streaming are great for instant gratification, which is the kind of world most people live in these days. I know stuff changes and I do embrace it to an extent, but there’s really something important and personal missing from picking up something tangible and holding it in your hands. I think most collectors would agree that’s a big part of their reason for collecting. Same for retro video games, records, toys, etc. When people are fans of something, they want to feel like they own a small part of it, and I thinks that’s what drives that impulse. People that stick to streaming and Redboxing are really missing out on that, the feeling of discovery while digging through titles for rent. For a person who grew up after video rental stores though, it’s hard to explain it to them if streaming is all they’ve ever known.
Another shot with that radical arcade machine in sight. Creature sez, "YOU DON'T NEED NO QUARTER, MAN!"
We couldn’t agree more, man! Do you have any video stores that you still rent from in your area?
Sadly, there aren’t any video stores here in the Houston area. We had a cool dude in town that opened a place called Weird-Oh video, but that closed down. Audio Video Plus was king here in town for years, but sadly that went the way of the dinosaur, too. Luckily Austin, TX isn’t too far away, and they have I Luv Video and Vulcan Video there, which still rent out tapes. They have ridiculously cool and extensive selections for Tapeheads and movie fans, and they do a lot to preserve the format, which I admire.
And what video rental shop would be complete without trading cards and radical snacks? NEED 'EM, NEED 'EM, GOT 'EM, NEED 'EM!
Anything else you want to shout out to all the Rewind-inclined peeps eyeballin' this Blog?
Oh, man, so much to say, but I’ll keep it simple: If you’re in Houston, come check out VHSlaughter Fest at Misfit Toys in the Heights. I screen a ton of movies on VHS for free, and we have built up a great community of like-minded people. It’s always a blast, and that’s the whole motivation with it, to just have fun and hang out and appreciate the VHS format. And last but not least, to anyone who collects tapes, keeps the spirit of them alive, and loves them to death - THANK YOU!!! It’s really cool to run across people who are VHS collectors, too, and every single one I’ve met in-person has been awesome. Thanks to you Josh for this opportunity to talk about CHAMPION VIDEO, and for all you do for the VHS community. you’re an awesome dude. \m/
Hey, man, look who's taking! This is a most ambitious and awesomely inspiring endeavor, Jason, and we here in Lunchmeat Land VHSalute you! Stay tuned to this VHS-obsessed slice of internet for even more new wave video store coverage, including a piece coming next week on a new project called IT CREPT FROM THE 80s spearheaded by none other than low-budget horror comedy auteur Chris Seaver! And if you just can't wait (and we don't blame you!) groove to their IndieGoGo page to see how YOU can help bring another video rental destination to fantastic fruition. It’s gonna rule, dude.
Groove and Groove and We are the Dream Warriors.