Nostalgia run amok: Why Dallas cinephiles are embracing '80s relic VHS

The year is 2018, and many have abandoned DVDs and Blu-rays altogether for streaming services like Netflix. But would you believe some people are still using VHS? Yes, those analog videotapes you have to rewind. There's a resurgence of interest in this seemingly ancient physical media.

It's mostly about nostalgia run amok.

"As a child, I always wanted to go to the video store instead of the toy store," says VHS collector Eric Bindel. He remembers excitedly walking through the horror section of Blockbuster Video in the '90s. "The real reason I've gone back to VHS is to feel that enjoyment that I once felt as a kid."

Dawn Huestis, Jaime Luna, and Eli Luna check out gymnast Kurt Thomas' 1985 movie "Gymkata" at the VHS swap at Piranha Vintage in Richardson.

Piranha Vintage in Richardson rents VHS, and the store's monthly VHS swaps draw enough movie geeks to fill up the shop and spill out onto the sidewalk.

Eli Luna, a VHS collector, got back into tapes a few years ago when he realized there was an active community on Instagram. Like millions of others, he started abandoning VHS tapes in the late '90s. But Luna kept a few.

Then he got obsessed with VHS cover art, an endangered species of its own.

"I've always loved that cover art," he says. "Those tapes are like a time capsule of the era." He tries not to pay more that $40 for a rare VHS but admits to shelling $100 for certain titles. Many VHS tapes have hand-painted cover art, as opposed to the Photoshopped box art that became the norm with DVDs.

Another reason throwback movie buffs like VHS is because some films were released on the format and never made it to another.

On the first Tuesday of every month, Texas Theatre offers ironic consumption with its Tuesday Night Trash event. Featuring low-budget films and trailers, they're often unintentionally hilarious — so bad they are good. Many of these old films are screened in VHS because it's the best available format.

Across the street, Top Ten Records in Dallas recently started carrying VHS. Top Ten is now a nonprofit that spotlights areas of consumer media culture, explains Barak Epstein, the Texas Theatre operator and board chair of the nonprofit.

Top Ten Records will eventually carry even more obscure formats, Epstein says. But for now, VHS tapes are a hot, new addition to their collection, believe it or not. He has definitely noticed a resurgence in VHS interest. But whether it's merited is another question.

"People were comparing it to the vinyl record resurgence," he says. "But you can make an argument that vinyl is superior to modern formats. It's hard to make an argument that VHS is superior to anything."

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