In an age where online video streaming platforms literally check in to see if you are still alive, it’s nice to know there is a human touch out there.
London’s Jumbo Video is a living testament to what many consider a dying concept – that of the local video rental store.
In 2019, Jumbo Video will be turning 30 years old, somehow surviving as a full-fledged movie rental store in the digital age.
So says Jake Davidson, son of Jumbo owner Philip Davidson and the second generation to stock the aisles. On entering the store, the first thing customers walk past is the video game section, while rows upon rows of neatly stacked DVD cases stretch off into the distance.
The smell of popcorn hangs in the air, as customers treat themselves to a snack before treating themselves to a movie or two.
It’s still a hallowed process – walking the aisles, browsing through the new releases and old classics, searching for a specific title or something completely unexpected. Rather than using a remote or game controller to mindlessly scroll through online suggestions, Jumbo Video is a place where you can physically interact with the movies – pick up the DVD case, examine the cover art and read the synopses on the back.
Being kind and rewinding may be a thing of the past, but making the trip to the local video store to pick out the weekend’s viewing is still a draw for many Londoners. Most kids who grew up in London can remember their first trip to Jumbo Video, and their first bag of free popcorn. It was as much a rite of passage as going to Wally World by yourself for the first time.
Now – those kids are bringing their own kids in to the store.
“It’s still an experience,” Davidson said. “You come in, get a bag of popcorn, the kids run around… It’s a night out for the family.”
It’s an inexpensive night out at that. Renting three movies at Jumbo would cost a parent less than a single admission at the cinema.
But movies (and movie nights) are only part of the picture.
Fun and games
Jumbo Video is part of a Quebec-based chain that includes Microplay, and all of the stores are locally owned and independently operated. Davidson said getting London’s Jumbo to include a Microplay boutique was a long process, but a worthwhile one.
Any skepticism over whether Jumbo could support a gaming side was immediately put to rest when it opened in 2012. The demand was huge, as was the reception.
Of course, the store did rent games throughout its run, but stock changed over many times as gaming systems rose and fell. Who knew yesterday’s old stock would be today’s goldmine?
What’s old is new again, and those old Nintendo and Sega games that were once clearance items have become collector’s gold with the added values of nostalgia and rarity.
The irony isn’t lost on Davidson.
“We had to kick ourselves a bit,” he says. “Like every other game chain, we started getting rid of them. Now what was $4.99 in 2007 is $44.99 in 2018.
“That’s the power of demand.”
To mark the store’s 30th anniversary, Davidon said they have “a few things planned,” however, customers will have to wait to find out what’s in the works.
One definite change coming to Jumbo is going full-on geek. “I want to be the Wal-Mart of geek and nerd stuff,” Davidson said.
Jake is a self-professed nerd, and said the next big thing in Jumbo Video’s future will be expanding into hobbies and tabletop games. This is in addition to the racks of pop culture clothing, accessories and figurines that are currently on display.
Meanwhile, customers continue to support this family business that has been making a night out of staying home for almost 30 years.
And for those wondering, the store gives away between $8,000 – $10,000 worth of popcorn each year!