In an era when most people have ditched DVDs and Blu-Ray discs in favor of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, one Lincoln business owner is counting on the resurgence of video rentals and VHS cassettes.
Dustin Ferguson opened Old Skool Video on Jan. 1, 2017 at 110 W. Fletcher Ave., Suite 3 in Lincoln’s Highlands neighborhood.
For almost 30 years now, Ferguson has dreamt of opening his own video store. He grew up regularly renting movies at video stores, and his deep love of horror films instilled in him a will to one day sit behind the counter, renting out films from his own collection.
Ferguson studied business management and entrepreneurship at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska, to prepare for his future store. But by the time he graduated in 2005, most brick and mortar video stores were closing their doors.
So he was forced to delay his dream indefinitely. But that only led him to his second passion: filmmaking.
Ferguson’s first project as a director, 2007’s “Scalps II: The Return of DJ,” served as a fan-made sequel to the original 1983 “Scalps” horror film, which was included on a new Blu-Ray edition of the original film.
Ferguson has since gone on to direct 70 music videos and 34 films, such as “Camp Blood 4” and “Camp Blood 5,” which were made in conjunction with prolific horror producer David Sterling.
In 2016, Ferguson said he’d seen a resurgence in VHS and decided it was the right time for him to finally open his video store.
Seth Koozer, an unofficial employee at Old Skool Video and host of video store-focused show “Trash Video Podcast,” said the resurgence in VHS is due to customers’ nostalgia for physical media.
“People still love to shop around and hold an actual copy of a movie or a record and I don’t think that will ever go away,” Koozer said.
With a new interest in VHS, and after making enough movies and money, Ferguson was in the position he needed to be to move forward with his dream.
“In a way, looking back on it, directing of the horror movies was sort of the segue from collecting to having the video store,” Ferguson said. “I think directing the films gave me the money I needed to do this.”
Old Skool Video offers a wide selection of new and old horror films on DVD and VHS, as well as other genres, such as the growing new releases and family sections.
But Ferguson said many horror fans are more interested in VHS and video rental in general because many of the movies released on VHS never survived the transition between VHS and DVD. Much of his inventory isn’t on Netflix.
“I think the people are fed up with what’s fed to them on streaming services,” Ferguson said. “There’s just so much more out there.”
Ferguson said he purchased many of the VHS movies in his collection for close to $500. And without video stores for fans to rent older movies from, they’re left with few options to see those films.
“There’s no other way you can see them unless you have $500 to buy one of them,” Ferguson said.
In the short time since Old Skool Video opened as Lincoln’s only video rental store, Ferguson and his collection of thousands of horror films and other genres on VHS have already generated a steady customer base.
“We’ve been open not even four weeks now, and I have regulars who have been here 8 or 9 times renting movies,” Ferguson said.
On Freaky Fridays, customers get a free horror movie with any rental. And on Selfie Saturdays, a free rental is given away to anyone who posts a selfie of themselves on Old Skool Video’s Facebook wall.
He said on some nights, the store will draw around 15 or 20 people at a time. And while it gets overwhelming having to put all of the tapes into cases and to get the customers’ account information with a line of shoppers waiting on him, he said it’s still exciting at the same time.
The store’s early success hasn’t come without struggle, though. Originally, Ferguson was looking at a location on South 13th Street, which he said would have been perfect.
But after he bought the space, a construction crew was still occupying the space with the intent of staying until May 2017. Ferguson moved his operation to its current location, which lacked lights and a toilet when he first set up shop.
“But it’s sort of like, if you really have the passion and you want to succeed, you’ll just deal with it anyways,” Ferguson said.
Going forward, Ferguson said he wants to continue to grow his horror collection, as well as the rest of his inventory. But he said he thinks his customer base won’t go anywhere - his extensive horror collection will keep customers coming back.
“Even when there was Blockbuster and other Ma and Pa places, they’d have like a horror section, but it wasn’t like this,” Ferguson said. “It wasn’t like thousands of movies. So I think that’s going to keep people coming in.”
Most remaining video stores are closing, but Ferguson said he’s not the only video store enthusiast in the U.S. who is opening a new store.
“But I kinda hope in a way that we’re paving the way for a movement,” Ferguson said.