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Bringing VHS back to brick-and-mortar with Back Room Video

There's a hidden gem tucked away in Irvington that will bring joy to every person who felt nostalgia for VHS amid the latest technologies.
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Posted at 7:00 PM, Aug 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-16 19:28:18-04

INDIANAPOLIS — There's a hidden gem tucked away in Irvington that will bring joy to every person who felt nostalgia for VHS amid the latest technologies.

Back Room Video is blending the past with the future, aiming for a viable business model.

The little shop operates off a subscription-model similar to a streaming service. For $10-15 a month, users have unlimited access to Back Room Video's VHS library, one tape at a time.

Its owner and curator, Reed Brown, says in this day and age, most VHS collections are sitting unwatched on the shelves of passionate collectors.

"No one gets to enjoy (that) media. It's just a prop on some nerd's wall," Brown said. "So, me being one of those nerds, and me having a network of nerds like that, we kind of pulled all our tapes together and thought, 'Why not share it with people?'"

Like many others from the millennial generation and Gen-X, Brown says watching tapes now gives him a bittersweet feeling tied to his childhood.

"Also, there's an aspect of permanence and impermanence with the tape," Brown said. "Like, the way that it can become distorted and ruined — arguably, because that ultimately is just a strip of magnet on spinning wheels."

The business sets you up for success with this nostalgic technology. It sells VCRs and Brown purchases used ones whenever he can to stock his shelves.

Brown says there's another advantage to enjoying this version of movies and old shows, versus watching them on a streaming app or online.

"There's a lot of stuff that doesn't exist on the internet. Only-on-VHS movies that were — maybe for political reasons — never distributed outside their original pressing," Brown said. "Then other cases like, say: The original 'Star Wars' trilogy. You know, Disney doesn't let you watch the original '70s version of Star Wars. So we can offer that to you as a VHS tape here."

Back Room Video also takes a different tack on piracy. You won't see a large blue screen warning you against duplicating its media.

"I'm not stopping anyone from renting a tape and duplicating it and keeping it in their house for the rest of their life. That's one of the benefits of VHS over streaming, renting through YouTube or Amazon — also just the time aspect. Who wants to rent a movie and have to return it immediately? Especially if you have kids who might want to watch it again," Brown said.

Back Room Video is located in the back room of Irvington Vinyl & Books, 202 S. Audubon Rd., Indianapolis. It is open the same hours as Irvington Vinyl & Books, which is noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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