Far More Than Just Another Video Rental Store, Premiere Video Has Served As A Venerable Cathedral For Dallas Cinephiles For More Than 30 Years. Could Its Run Really Be Over?
For whatever it’s still worth, the Blockbuster Video chain was actually launched right here in Dallas.
That’s right: Along with so many other modern-day (or, well, modern enough) conveniences, Dallas is the birthplace of the most successful brick-and-mortar movie rental franchise of all time, even if that brand was ultimately capsized and sunk by the seeming obsolescence of its business model in 2013.
Of course, after Blockbuster fell to ruin, Dallas still had an iconic rental franchise it could still depend on in Premiere Video. For more than 30 years, Premiere Video has fought off technological advances and trends in the entertainment consumption business to become a Dallas landmark for area cinephiles.
Unfortunately, its future is up in jeopardy at this point. Late last month, Premiere shut the doors on its shop, and while owners have publicly stated that there are plans for its operations to continue on in some capacity, there’s no clear indication at this point of what will happen next for the business.
Blockbuster thrived — up until they didn’t, anyway — by aggressively catering to families and casual movie watchers. Their model of keeping out anything that carried a rating stricter than R, and making the availability of new releases the utmost priority, gave Premiere Video (which opened in 1984, a year before Blockbuster) an opportunity to zig where its massive competitor zagged. Rather than focus on what the average person might be content and comfortable with, Premiere made itself vital to the area’s film buffs by challenging their palates.
Premiere Video carried an astronomical number of titles withing its walls. When I spoke to Premiere Video owner Sam Wade for an article last year, his store housed over 35,000 titles — a number that dwarfs Netflix’s streaming service offering of fewer than 6,000. And while Premiere indeed stocked crowd-friendly fare in its inventory, it also made sure to include rarities and cult classics, as well as a remarkable number of foreign titles. Wade and his employees also took the time to bond with customers, listening to what they wanted to see and striving to provide a selection that fit the interests of the people who depended on their efforts.
This commitment to building a serious film library, and to building strong relationships with serious film fans, afforded Premiere Video the necessary support to outlive Blockbuster. If the business is able to come back after losing its home on Mockingbird Lane, it will be thanks to the appreciation and respect it accumulated over the years, as well as the loyalty of patrons who still enjoy browsing densely-packed shelves when they want to find just the right movie for the evening.
If you feel like the city as a whole failed to fully realize what it had with the store, you’re not alone. Even in a period where a video store’s mere survival feels newsworthy, Premiere Video could be overlooked. I discovered this while researching my first piece about the store, after noticing how listicle tributes to surviving independent rental stores tended to leave them out — an omission that has no obvious excuse. Premiere has a long history, an astonishing library and – as discussed in a Dallas Morning News article lamenting its likely shuttering – it’s acted as an important resource for well-known figures in the TV and film industry, including director Wes Anderson, and actors Amy Acker and Billy Zane.
But, before we all cry foul over Dallas once again not appreciating something until it’s gone, it’s worth noting that a sequel to Premiere Video may still be in the works. In articles from both the Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Observer, Wade has stated an intention to reopen the store in a different, smaller location. If that happens, we’ll be spared the loss of an important cultural resource. One way Premiere Video had been able to keep its shelves so rich, and so replete with hard-to-find items, was through its decision to hold onto its VHS library. Every jump to a new viewing platform means the loss of some films; there are many titles on DVD you just can’t stream, and the transition from VHS to DVD meant many works became harder to find and watch. If you had a particularly keen interest in a certain director or genre, though, Premiere was the most dependable area resource for finding rarer flicks and seriously indulge that fondness. Someone simply looking for a way to fill an evening can surely be satisfied by what’s available on a streaming platform, but if you have more cultivated or unorthodox tastes, a library like the one at Premiere Video can be a godsend.
It’s worth noting, though, that there’s no address listed for a new Premiere Video storefront as of this writing. Wade has also expressed a desire to keep his collection intact regardless, though, and if he can’t start his business in a new location, alternative ideas are being explored. That’s a blessing. The disappearance of his stock would truly make Dallas a little less unique, and a little less special, even its temporary inaccessibility still hurts.
So here’s hoping that Premiere Video’s story is simply on pause, rather than on a full stop. The store’s reincarnation would allow Dallas to retain both a cherished business and a film library that seems impossible to replicate today. In any case, the mere threat of its ultimate closure is a stinging reminder that our city’s unique offerings can be more easily lost than we might want to admit.