The Main Street Video Co-op, formerly Howard Hughes Video, closed its location at 520 S. Main St. in Moscow in 2020 after more than 30 years of business. It was the last independent video store in Moscow.
Like other video stores across the country, its decline was fueled by the widespread adoption of streaming services in recent years, and accelerated by revenue losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At their peak about two decades ago, approximately 30,000 video stores operated in the U.S., according to Robert Perret, University of Idaho Special Collections librarian. By 2020, there were roughly 2,000 video stores remaining.
“This is a massive industry decline,” said Perret, who worked with the UI Library Special Collections and Archives department to conduct an oral history project of the Main Street Video Co-op.
The store, which housed the largest video collection in the Inland Northwest, was previously known as Howard Hughes Video.
Howard Hughes Video opened in 1978 as part of the Howard Hughes appliance store. It later ventured to become a co-op in 2015 to preserve the large collection of videos amid mounting economic troubles.
A few years later, the Main Street Video Co-op officially took charge of the store under the new arrangement with help from the community.
“It made it a few more years under that model until March 2020, when I guess something major happened in the world and the Main Street Video Co-op was finally unable to keep persevering,” he said. ” Moscow lost its last remaining video store.”
The entire film library was transferred to the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center, a historic theater venue located next door.
However, the Kenworthy ended up selling a large portion of the collection to the public to recoup costs and donated the rest to the UI Library Special Collections and Archives department. A timeline of the video store’s history can be found on the library’s website at bit.ly/3qrE18a.
The page includes an oral history of the downtown Main Street Video Co-op, where locals recount via video their fondest memories perusing the store’s old shelves.
Russell Meeuf, a professor at UI who teaches the history of cinema and mass media, is featured among the collection of interviews. He talks about the experience of picking out a movie rental with family or friends and how the convenience of streaming ultimately posed a threat to the survival of the store.
“I think that social experience around popular culture and the film industry and the television industry is something that’s lost,” Meeuf said. “It’s no longer a place where you go and you meet people and see people. I think that kind of active social space is what we’re missing in the community.”
The oral history project was presented by Perret and fellow librarians Evan Williamson and Hanwen Dong during a UI Malcolm Renfrew Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Tuesday afternoon.
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