This fine tribute sums up my experience pretty well, too. I still savor the childhood memories of my parents renting the actual VCR (it came in a huge plastic suitcase for $15 per night) alongside the VHS tapes we wanted to watch. As I recall, the remote control was on a long, thin cord which allowed a viewer to sit some distance from the TV, but not far enough to reach the couch ~ it sort of hung there like a waiting tripwire or jumprope.
As a teenager, my friend Tonya worked in the local video store and visiting her was an important stop in our route of eveningtide juvenile delinquency. There was an unwritten rule that if you wanted a movie poster that was currently displayed, all you had to do was ask and it became yours once its cycle on the wall was complete. That seemed really amazing, even glamorous, to me.
I guess I like the depressive tone of that Weekly Standard piece. And I'm glad that our older girls have a small piece of their life that includes the video store outings. (Our second daughter was completely stressed out to first grasp the idea of Redbox --- she asked specifically about the girl who gave her lollipops, and if she had lost her job.) That sincere (if fatalistic) perspective in a four-year-old made us proud. So time marches on, I get it.
Having to brave the elements and bump into humanity at the video store was a chore, but in some ways it was a grounding ritual. It was a simple way to anticipate coziness.
NB: Maybe I can finally get my hands on a copy of Arachnophobia...