Wednesday, 29 October 2014

You'll Never See The Likes Of It Again - Farewell Laser DVD

Info: There's an old Irish phrase when someone of note passes away, 'Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís', 'You'll never see the likes of them again', which I've modified slightly. Yes, all I have are romantic and fond memories of Laser DVD, and when a fellow Ranelonian sent me a message this afternoon that Laser was to be no more, it was my second bit of heartbreak in the last year and a half after the flagship shop closed in Ranelagh last May. I have many fond and funny memories of Laser, I remember when they first opened up in my home town back in the early 90's (the owners were two sisters) and as part of it's efforts to get a piece of Xtra-vision's (which was located where Coffee Society is now) market they delivered vouchers to every household in the area. The vouchers were booklets that looked like cheque books, and you could rent a free film on VHS or a console game for your Sega Mega Drive or SNES. My friends and I had the great idea of knocking on loads of doors in the neighbourhood and asking people 'if they weren't going to be using the vouchers, could they, maybe, give them to us?' We had varied success, but needless to say we were kept in free rentals for at least a month or two, much to the puzzlement of the owners I'm sure, seeing us arrive in every day of our school holidays and slapping a wad of vouchers on the counter.

Laser DVD, Ranelagh, shortly before it closed it's doors

Other memories which are both funny, moreso in hindsight, was the time when I was ten and rocked down to Laser with a few school friends and rented Point Break, sure it was 18's, but the statute of limitations has passed. The guy in the shop asked were we allowed rent 18's, we lied, went home and watched Keanu and Patrick Swayze kicking ass. That night my parents gave it a watch and my mother was horrified, presumably at 'that scene' when they raid the house and there is boobies flying all over the place. She marched down to the video shop the next day, gave the poor chap a piece of her mind, something along the lines of vulgarity no doubt, and to assuage my mother's fears for how I would turn out as an adult, the staff member suggested he make a little note beside the membership number that I was not allowed rent films rated 15's or over, this was crushing news, but thankfully my friends were not under such draconian restrictions. Another less dramatic story was when a group of us wrote a note saying that one of our father's was very ill and housebound and was sending us down to rent Candyman on his behalf, I'm sure it was a source of amusement in store, probably written with crayons.

Johnny Utah get's in a spot of bother

As the years went on and we became more discerning about our film choices, one of my friend's older brother would check out film reviews in The Irish Times and the odd magazine (these were pre-internet days), make a decision on what to rent based on his research, and off we'd head down to Laser. Most of the time we'd get what we wanted but if all copies were rented out panic would set in. An impromptu committee would be formed in the aisles of the shop and debate would rage over what we should do know? What if the others didn't like our selections?? (no mobile phones back then either), on really bad days you could be there for half an hour and end up coming home with Wolf starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer, man that was a terrible film. Needless to say we were ostracised when the end credits rolled on that bogey.

In early adulthood it was the box-sets and Laser always had good deals for multiple rentals, heading down to the off-licence to get some wine and then to Laser to bag a few films or a series for the weekend on a Friday after work was one of life's simple but thoroughly enjoyable pleasures. After moving out of Ranelagh in my mid-20's my Laser life sadly waned, apart from popping in to the George's Street and Andrew's Street shops to buy a DVD, and have a chat with the staff. But I always took great comfort from seeing the familiar and distinct shop front in town, both of which had a constant flow of punters coming in and out, and knowing that they were doing well, even more impressive that they kept going after Chartbusters and Xtravision went under, and survived so long through the recession. 

When the Ranelagh shop closed last summer I was genuinely sad to the core, devastated might be too strong a word but it's pretty close, and I find it bemusing that a medium that is being made almost extinct by the internet, has been replaced by a book shop of all things in the same location, a kind of bittersweet joke. Hearing the news that Laser is gone altogether after 25 years did leave a small lump in my throat as I was walking home this evening, an institution for film fans which was a quarter of a century old is gone, and now there's nowhere left for us to go and browse what was such a broad and magnificent collection. Such was Laser's popularity and renown I wonder would a fund-it campaign have saved it, or would that simply have prolonged the battling against the waves of modern technology, ultimately leading to a predictable finale. It's a sad day, simple as that, and there's no consolation or silver-lining from what I can see, no 'Well at least...' or 'There's still such and such a place', just nothing. 

To finish up I just want to thank all of the staff I've interacted with since I was a chissler, especially the Ranelagh store where I spent untold hours of sunny summer days when I probably should have been outdoors! These guys actively brought great films to our home screens and caused recommendation domino effects that so many film fans benefited from. Laser, you were more than just a video shop, you were and are an enigma, you'll be sorely missed, but fondly remembered by all who passed through your doors, thank you.

The only plastic you ever needed!

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