Reliving the experience of going into a video store and taking “a piece of cinema in your own hands” is becoming increasingly difficult. In the Canary Islands, movie rental stores that are still open can be counted on the fingers of one hand. One of them is Scorpio, a real temple for moviegoers located at number 35 Álvarez de Lugo street, in Santa Cruz de Tenerifewhich keeps more than 16,000 movies. In DIARIO DE AVISOS we have spoken with Agustinthe passionate about celluloid who has made it possible to keep Scorpio as a benchmark in the sector since the store opened in 1986.
Visit scorpio is discover a place with charm and history: from its chocolate-colored facade, to the old posters that serve to indicate how the films are placed, passing through the black and white floor. The view also goes to the two old cameras that house the interior of the store, one from 1906 and the other from 1939.
Inside the establishment, the best trace of the past is the movie vending machinea symbol of the most important era of video stores and of the beginning of the consumption of “à la carte” cinema: “People came at dawn to take what they wanted to see. They chose between about 200 commercial films and they only needed their video store card to get them out”.
Augustine remembers that the pace of work was hectic during those first years of the local, late 80’s, which led him to have three other people on staff. Being able to go to the video store and take a movie in your hands to watch it whenever you wanted, even if you weren’t in the theater, was a novelty, so the queues lasted hours when there were premieres. His video store came to have customers from all over the Islands, people who traveled to Tenerife for work and rented movies on the way.
“It was something incredible. the day the film entered the video stores was as important as the time of the theatrical release. I fondly remember the arrival of titanic, matrix Y Memories of Africa. We had up to six units of those films and what at that time was more expensive to buy, but the business worked. We had 200 people who wanted to rent them the first day and managing it was not easy“Agustín recalls.
In those years, in Tenerife there were more than a hundred video stores and fifteen were concentrated in the Scorpio area alone: “It was a boom that the generation born after 2000 could not imagine, with rental formats such as Betamax and VHS, now out of print”.
Treatment and specialization in cinema, keys to success
Throughout the last 36 years Agustín has had to deal with the changes that have occurred in the industry and that have affected film consumption habits. The first of these crises came with the appearance of private televisions, which caused a drop in the clientele of video stores and forced them to start other businesses. Later, he had to face the arrival of the Internet, cable television and, finally, the recent appearance of digital platforms such as HBO, Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Nevertheless, none of this has been able to end Scorpio nor with the concept of video store that Agustín has always had in mind: “I combine business and cinema. I never thought of buying more units of popular films for the simple fact of making money, but rather I wanted to have the latest to please all audiences and also cult films for an audience that asked for more”.
A) Yes, professionalization has always been important for this palmero living in Tenerife. Knowing the great directors of each country, the various international awards, film reviews or even the plots of those films that could be interesting to his clientele has been essential for him and the people who have been part of his team.
“We had, and still have, a very demanding public that he knew the movies that were in the video store and the ones we could bring, so the service had to be up to par. In addition, many customers who came looking for the latest commercial releases they ended up asking us to recommend other titles. We liked to get it right and that they came to tell us that they had liked the recommended film. And sometimes, they became fond of auteur cinema and asked for more works by that director”, recalls Agustín.
A collection with an order and care that moviegoers value
Although he could have retired a few years ago, Agustín continues working because he likes what it means to have a video store with a Loyal clientele that supports you. He even jokes that someone has “warned” him that if she closes “something could happen to her.” His place is frequented, above all, by moviegoers of all ages, but some nostalgics also visit him that reminisce between corridors and corridors of movies bygone times.
But there is one more factor that forces Agustín to continue leading Scorpio: He does not see his films as merchandise, but as a collection. And that can be seen in the care with which they are arranged as well as in his attachment to them: “I would not part with most of these films. I only sell one of which I have several units. Also, I have a list of movies I’m trying to get. I recently got little thumb (1957)”.
The uncertain future of on-demand cinema
More than fifteen digital platforms fulfill a function similar to that only video stores once performed: allowing you to choose what to see and when to do it through a varied catalog of films. They have advantages over video stores, such as not having to leave home, but also a major drawback: “By paying the subscription of a single platform you do not have access to all the premieres or to all the cinema. Meanwhile, in the video store you can rent almost all the premieres and you only pay for the rental of what you see”.
Agustín acknowledges that, in the future, there is a risk of not being able to access the films you want, since some classics and auteur films are not on the platforms and could disappear forever. Because, invites administrations to create film libraries in cities and appeals to them in the Canary Islands: “I am interested in reaching an agreement so that these films are not lost, many of which are difficult to obtain today. It would be a shame if they were lost.”.