ATX Movies Nostalgia

Vulcan Video: The Fight to Save an Austin Institution

I’ve been in Austin for a decade now. Vulcan Video has been here much longer — since the 1980s, in fact. But in the years that I’ve been a resident of this beautiful, growing city, I’ve come to love Vulcan more than almost any other local establishment.

I’m hardly the first person to write about it recently. It’s been covered by outlets both local and national. Because the truth is, even as much as so many people in the community love this store, it’s hard to keep a local video rental store open in a bustling city in 2019.

So I’ve donated to the cause, but I wouldn’t be doing my part without trying to signal boost as well. Let me tell you about what Vulcan Video means to me.

Normally a story like this would begin with the memory of my first visit to Vulcan, but I honestly can’t remember it. I feel like I’ve been going there forever. It became a much bigger (and more regular) part of my routine when a friend and I started an autumn movie marathon. We would go to Vulcan three times a week, renting one or two horror movies each, then go to her apartment to watch them. It was as much an excuse to watch horror movies as it was to hang out, make jokes and eat junk food.

One of the great things about Vulcan is the selection. Every week we did these movie marathons with a theme in mind: Foreign Horror, Horror Comedy, Wes Craven Week, etc. And no matter how scary or silly the movie we were looking for, we could find it there. We watched films as revered as “Martyrs,” as mocked as “The Dentist” and as unknown (or forgotten?) as “Office Killer.” My obsession with movies — especially horror, obviously — was cemented by Vulcan Video’s existence.

Oh, and did I mention they allow pets in the store on a leash? Our dogs love to visit and get treats from the friendly, helpful employees.

Pandora patiently awaiting a treat at Vulcan Video | Photo credit: Ben Rothenberg

I also grew up in the ’90s, meaning I’m equally comfortable with a VHS and a streaming service. So yeah, I have some online streaming subscriptions. But I’ve never lost my love for physical media. Vulcan offers rentals so I can check out that movie that I just never got around to seeing in theaters, but they also have DVDs, Blu-rays and, yes, VHS tapes for sale. I’ll never get over how exciting it is to just walk into a store and be able to rent a bunch of movies (or TV shows!) for a few days. And all without the internet!

As you may be able to tell, I still frequent Vulcan Video. In fact, I used to live walking distance from its South Congress location and was upset that I’d be further away when I moved to a new apartment. But as luck would have it, Vulcan moved too! And now it’s walking distance from me once again — though not in the sweltering summer.

I introduced my boyfriend to the store too, and we try to visit several times a month. I think we’re better for it. We get to watch new movies for the first time, as well as revisit old favorites without becoming total movie hoarders. It’s a win-win.

Vulcan Video is also cool because they support local artists. I’ve been (selfishly) bummed at least once or twice that I couldn’t go in to rent something because there was filming going on at the store. Plus they include local filmmakers’ work among their shelves so it actually reaches an audience.

And now, just this summer, they’ve started an awesome series called Taps & Tapes. Every Saturday night they show an obscure film outdoors, in their own parking lot, with free beer provided by local brewers. It’s something that feels truly special — and truly Vulcan.

Taps & Tapes screening of “Club Life” | Photo credit: Ben Rothenberg

So if you’d like to become a part of something bigger, whether or not you live in Austin, please consider donating to Vulcan’s GoFundMe here so they can raise the last of the money needed for their present and future in Austin. As they say, “Damn the Man. Save Vulcan Video.”

Featured image credit: Jackie Ruth

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