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516 E John Street, Champaign, IL 61820
(217) 384-0977

Urbana-Champaign's Best Independent DVD Rental store
(locally owned and operated since 1985)

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Rentertainment news... a blog of sorts.
2005 Edition (Click for 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008)
December 28, 2005
Auguste and Louis Lumière show first movie
(The Lumiere brothers) produced a single device that acted as both camera and projector, the cinématographe, which they patented on 13 February 1895. The first footage ever to be shot on the device was shot on 19 March 1895; the film was La sortie des usines Lumière (literally, The Exit From the Lumière Factories, or, under its more common English title, Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory). The first paying show was on 28 December in Paris at the Grand Café in the Boulevard des Capucines. They went on tour with the cinématographe in 1896 visiting Bombay, London and New York. The moving images had an immediate and significant influence on popular culture with L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de la Ciotat (literally, The Arrival of a Train at the Ciotat Station, but more commonly known as Arrival of a Train at a Station) and also with actuality films often cited as the first documentaries - although this is a matter of some debate - such as Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory, Le Déjeuner de Bébé (Baby's Lunch) and the first steps towards comedy with the slapstick of L'Arroseur Arrosé (The Sprinkler Sprinkled). However the brothers stated that "the cinema is an invention without any future" and declined to sell their invention to Georges Méliès and so their role in the history of film was exceedingly brief. (from Wikipedia)
December 18, 2005
Finally, That's Rentertainment T-shirts
After meaning to do it for about five years, really meaning to do it for two years, and thinking very seriously about it for the last couple months we finally decided to bite the bullet and just get it done -- That's Rentertainment now has t-shirts!!! They come in four sizes (s, m, l, xl) and in three colors (red, yellow and blue). We'll have lady cuts very soon (or I will get punched) and green shirts (because I'm told they would look cool). So, if the next time you are in we all look like we are dressed the same it's because we got new t-shirts and can push off laundry day another week... (buy a shirt)

December 14, 2005
#20,000 is here!!!!
Yes, movie lovers, that is correct. We have just entered the 20,000th DVD into our system. Unfortunately, it's disc six of "The Dukes of Hazzard: Season 5" -- oh well. Believe me, there was talk of fudging it making "Persona" or the re-release of "Eraserhead" #20,000 but we decided to let fate be our leader. Of course, all this got me thinking -- what were some of the other monumental landmarks...

1,000 - Royal Warriors (China)
5,000 - Homicide: Seasons 1 & 2 Disc 2 (Television)
10,000 - Scarface (General)
15,000 - Taxi (Comedy)

Anyone want to take a pot shot at what #25,000 will be? or what day it will arrive? Can you spell "b-a-b-y-p-o-o-l"?

November 19, 2005
Richard L Merritt (August 8, 1933 - November 19, 2005)
Today I am saddened to report that my father, Richard Merritt, passed away this past Saturday morning. My earliest memories of watching great films were with him and my brothers at my early birthday parties (when I was five). He and my mother would rent a projector and some movies (they were on film back then) and we would spend the afternoon watching the films of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy. We would also go to many of the film festivals in the University YMCA's Latzer Hall, Lincoln Hall, Channing Murray and McKinley Foundation. My parents were also instrumental in promoting a number of local film festivals (primarily involving German films) and "happenings" in the late sixties and early seventies. Those were the days that made me interested in film and led me to eventually open That's Rentertainment (and fill it with all of the best movies I could find).

I will always think of my father as a great man who inspired me and taught me more than I could ever express in words. I will miss him.


P.S. I have put some pictures and a copy of the obituary from Sundays News Gazette here if you are interested.

November 16, 2005
Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price
"Everyone has seen Wal-Mart's lavish television commercials, but have you ever wondered why Wal-Mart spends so much money trying to convince you it cares about your family, your community, and even its own employees? What is it hiding? WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price takes you behind the glitz and into the real lives of workers and their families, business owners and their communities, in an extraordinary journey that will challenge the way you think, feel... and shop." -- from WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price web site.

Today we joined over 7,000 small businesses, churches, organizations, clubs and individual people who held screenings of "WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price" in 19 countries and all 50 states for what is said to be "the largest grassroots mobilization in movie history". There were at least six screenings in the Champaign-Urbana area that I know of. Here at That's Rentertainment we showed the movie off and on all day long today to groups of people who sat on the floor, leaned on the counters and wandered around the store.

November 7, 2005
What's moving into the old Panera on John Street?
Well, I finally found out that it's Bar Louie -- a "hip neighborhood restaurant and bar specializes in oversized sandwiches and artfully created jumbo martinis but also offers an extensive selection of appetizers, pastas and entrees; plus wide assortment of interesting beers, microbrews and wines by the glass or bottle." From their web site it looks like they have 16 locations (in 5 states) -- 10 of them in Chicago. Here is a sample menu from their Wrigley location (do they really get $2.49 for a soda?). It doesn't look like they do any kind of breakfast fare (only lunch and dinner) so the Panera Morning Coffee Drinkers Club will have to find new a new haunt. Word has it they are trying to get open by the first of the year -- we'll see...
November 1, 2005
Ebertfest passes on sale now
Do not delay -- buy your tickets now because they will sell out!!! Check out the official Ebertfest web page and our own Ebertfest page for more information. Remember, it's easier to buy a pass and give away the tickets for the movies you don't want to see than it is to try to get tickets for all the movies you do want to see.
October 5, 2005
Greetings from France
Today I write to you from the town of Malaucene, France (in Provence, just outside of Avignon). I came out here with my girlfriend, Jill, and her mother, Janet, for holiday. We are staying with Jill's sister who had rented a "cottage" for a few weeks while on "sabbatical" from work. We are surrounded by vinyards (and even have our own on site winery -- they call it "une cave") and olive trees and have an ancient Roman chapel next door. Very nice. Tomorrow we meet my brother and his girlfriend in Avignon for lunch. Saturday we leave here and head to Paris for a few days. Then it's back to Urbana to buy movies again. If you would like to see pictures of my trip (and the food I've eaten) click here.
September 25, 2005
New "content" at
I've added two more pages to the web-site (because content is king):
1) Employee Picks -- you know that section right when you walk in the door with recommendations from Rentertainment employees? ever wonder what was up there last week when you were in the Bahamas? Now you can see a complete list of the gems picked from previous weeks, even months!
2) Employee Top 10 Lists -- years ago we asked all the employees at Rentertainment what their favorite movies were. I've asked the current crop of employees to do the same. See the results here.

September 22, 2005
How many DVDs does Rentertainment buy every week?
I have no idea. There is no set number, per se, but we do try to stick to a budget (however, I don't think I have since we opened). Here is a list of the dates when we hit even thousands -- maybe we can estimate how many we buy based on this:

15,000 DVDs -- Feb 14, 2005
16,000 DVDs -- April 13, 2005
17,000 DVDs -- July 22, 2005
18,000 DVDs -- Sept 3, 2005

So, it looks like about 500 per month lately. I suppose that's quite a few...

September 15, 2005
Livestrong - The Lance Armstrong Foundation
I just placed an order for another 500 Livestrong wristbands.
So far we have sold over 2,500 of these through That's Rentertainment (with 100% of the proceeds going to the Lance Armstrong Foundation). To date, "the LAF has awarded more than $9.6 million in research grants... funding Cancer Survivorship Centers and Research Grants" -- one dollar at a time. Pretty amazing.
September 4, 2005
Just what makes a classic?
In the past week I've had a couple of students ask me if we have any "classic movies." When I point them to the classics section they say "No, not that old -- I just need something that came out before 1980." 1980? a classic? Come on! When we opened in 1985, I decided to define a classic as "any film older than me" (with a handful of exceptions). At that point, the newest film in the classics section would have been 23 years old -- just like me. Skip to today and look at a film made in 1980, "The Blue Lagoon" for instance. It is now 25 years old. Is "The Blue Lagoon" a classic? Not in my book and not just because it wasn't very good (although it did get an Oscar bid) but because it's not old enough. I'm sticking with my original rule -- to be a classic film it has to be older than me. When you open your video store you can set the date wherever you want.
August 28, 2005
Protecting Animals, USA
Last week I ran into Danielle Marino, a former University YMCA board member and founder of SILA (Students for Improving the Lives of Animals). She offered to help me locate films for Rentertainment's "Environmental & Social Issues" section and for our"Cooking and Nutrition" section. Watch for about twenty new titles in the next few weeks. More importantly, though, since graduating from the University of Illinois, Danielle has founded Protecting Animals, USA, a not for profit in Chicago (who "strive to advocate the welfare of non-human animals through outreach, education, and active campaigning") and works with Veg Chicago (a vegetarian and vegan guide to Chicago). I am constantly amazed by what the students who I work with at the University YMCA do after graduating. I feel very lucky to know them.
August 19, 2005
BIG News for Block Owners -- read on...
Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye: the "powers that be" converged last week and decided that if you own a "Renter-Block" you should be able to keep all rentals for three days -- and so it is. From now on, all DVDs (new releases and older titles) rented on a block may be kept for three days. So be it.
August 9, 2005
Another cool Web site... is an excellent web site and contains a wealth of knowledge for film fans. Check out this in depth comparison of three different versions of Hero. Or the list of his Top 100 DVDs (he makes a point of telling you two things: 1) this is his list, not yours -- so no comments are accepted, and 2) he couldn't narrow it down to 100 films so there are 160 and they may change regularly). There are also a slew of articles, DVD reviews and a ton of links to other excellent sites. Check it out!
August 3 , 2005
Movie Day: Week Ten (last movie week of the summer)
This week I was solo so I watched a movie I'd had sitting around for a long time -- "9 Songs" (directed by Michael Winterbottom of "24 Hour Party People" fame). It's got two big (but not necessarily good) selling points: 1) it's "The first sexually explicit British film to be awarded a British mainstream certificate" and 2) it's got some live concert footage of The Dandy Warhols, Franz Ferdinand, Bobby Gillespie, Michael Nyman, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Super Furry Animals. To me it looked like "Nine 1/2 Weeks" meets a not very good porno meets a pretty good rock 'n roll show. Worth watching but not for the prude or the non indie rock folks.
August 2, 2005
VHS Sale Update #2
As of today we have sold over 8,500 video tapes (but still have about 5,900 left). They will stay priced at $2.50 each and 3 for $6 from now on. We are going to move them all to the back of the store so that we can start on phase two: re-organizing the store!

July 27, 2005
Movie Day: Week Nine
This week we watched one of my favorite films of all time -- Jean Cocteau's 1946 masterpiece "La Belle et la Bete" ("Beauty and the Beast"). The Criterion company recently reissued a newly mastered version on DVD which includes, although we didn't partake in, an operatic soundtrack by Philip Glass. Every time I watch this I marvel at the fact that one could freeze frame the picture at any point and get a beautiful image -- nothing is wasted. Watch it!

P.S. If anyone out there has an original French one-sheet from "La Belle et la Bete" they want to get rid of let me know...

July 25, 2005
VHS Sale Update #1
OK, so maybe VHS isn't dead after all. In the first four days of the "Grand VHS Blow-Out Sale" we sold over 5,500 video tapes (and still have about 9,000 left). The plan now is to keep selling them for another week or so and see where we are then. Watch this space for updates...

July 22, 2005
What's up with selling all the videos?
Some folks are very concerned that since we are selling off all of our VHS titles tons of great movies will no longer be available at Rentertainment. Believe me, we are worried about that, too. So, here is what we did prior to the sale:

1) First, we went through all of the International, Independent and Documentary films to check if we had the title on both VHS and DVD. If we only had a VHS we checked to see if it was available on DVD. If it was, we've ordered it. If it wasn't, we set it aside.
2) Second, we went through all the films that were set aside (from above) and checked their rental history. If they had rented at least once every other month we put it in the basement. These will return after the sale is over. If it hadn't rented out at least once every other month it's on the shelf for sale.

So, we are going to loose a few titles but we have already placed orders for over 500 DVDs that we didn't have in stock before. Those will start appearing next week. We also have about 300 titles that will be returning. as rentals as soon as the sale is over. Hopefully we won't be missing too much.

P.S. As always, if there are any great films you think we need please let me know.

July 19, 2005
Movie Day: Week Eight
After days of pleading from Amanda we decided to watch "A Very Long Engagement" -- and I am very glad we did. It's directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie and, oddly enough, Alien 4) and stars Audrey Tautou (also of Amelie) -- very well filmed, nicely paced and a wonderfully told story. Highly recommended by all three of us present at the screening.

July 12, 2005
Movie Day: Week Seven
This week we chose to watch "Kontroll" -- a film that I've heard a lot about on various web sites and chat boards. From the reactions of the folks around me it appeared that one person hated "Kontroll", one thought it was OK but the end was dumb and I really liked it (especially the amazing cinematography). For what it's worth, "Kontroll" was the first Hungarian film to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in the past 20 years. We've got it on PAL right now and will be getting in on NTSC at the end of August.

July 10, 2005
That's Rentertainment has officially run out of room and the only solution I can think of is to get rid of the VHS. We'll be hanging onto a few titles that haven't been released on DVD yet but otherwise everything must go. You, the faithful reader of this section of the web site, get this info earlier than anyone else. Here's the ad that will run in the News Gazette classifieds

Over 16,000 VHS Tapes must go

On Friday, July 22 (10am) That’s Rentertainment will be making room for more DVDs by selling all VHS tapes: Friday - $8/ea or 3/$25, Saturday - $6/ea or 3/$15, Sunday - $4/ea or 3/$10, next week everything $2.50/ea or 3/$6. 516 E John Street, Champaign.

... and here is the more detailed on-line version.

July 6, 2005
Movie Day: Week Six
We are now tied with Lance -- 6 TIMES!!! This weeks movie was one of the worst Bollywood films I have ever seen. Possibly the worst film I've seen all year (not just 2005, but the entire previous twelve months). If you get the oppurtunity, don't watch "Bride & Prejudice" -- although the Indian dance sequences were great, the Americanized song and dance routines and just plain dumb dialog dragged the whole thing down the tubes. On the other hand, Aishwarya Rai was (and, of course, still is) very beautiful (that's her to the right). So, if you want to watch a great Bollywood film with Aishwarya Rai watch "Taal" -- or, if you want to watch one of the great Bollywood crossover hits (like this was supposed to be) watch "Monsoon Wedding" or "Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India" (or even "Bend it like Beckham"). Don't bother with "Bride & Prejudice" -- sorry.

July 2, 2005
2005 Tour de France
The 2005 Tour de France officially started on July 2nd. I predict that this year's Tour will be prove to be the most exciting Tour in years. Read about the stages, daily happenings and other tour fun at these sites: Official Tour de France Website, Bicycling Magazine, Cycling News or Velo News Magazine. And, if you've got Dish, watch it on TV at OLN. Lastly, Road Bike Rider posted this excellent run down on this year's Tour.

June 22, 2005
Movie Day: Week Five
"Layer Cake" (or, as seen on the box, "L4yer Cake") is great. Produced by Matthew Vaughn (of Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels fame) it has that same cool attitude and incredible shots from previous films. It should be out domestically soon -- watch it when you can.
June 16, 2005
Annaliesa Rose Merritt
Congratulations go out to my younger brother, Theo, and his wife, Christine, on the birth of their beautiful baby daughter Annaliesa Rose. What a cutey!
Here's the announcement from Carle Hospital and here for some more pictures...
June 15, 2005
Movie Day: Week Four
In preparation for the 2005 Tour de France we decided to watch a new documentary about Germany's Team Telekom's 2003 Tour de France, "Hollentour (Hell on Wheels)" -- possibly the best cycling documentary ever made. Only a few more days until the 2005 Tour starts...

June 27, 2005
Today, I have some very sad news to report. Former That's Rentertainment employee and good friend Tracie Aincham (Tracie Verniere) passed away on Friday, July 24th after a long and difficult battle with cancer. (more)


June 22, 2005
Movie Day: Week Three
I've always been a big fan of business oriented films and documentaries so I was very excited to see "Yes Men" when we got it in. Now, after months of thinking "I really need to watch this" I finally have. I found it to be very both very funny (that these guys could pull such pranks off) and very sad (that these guys could pull such pranks off and no one knew). I'll have to watch "The Corporation" next.

June 18, 2005
Web Stats are fun
I've finally installed a stat counter on our web site so I can see where people are coming from, what they are looking at and how they got here. One of the features is a list of what keywords people are searching for when they manage to stumble across Rentertainment's web site. Here are some of my favorite searches (that actually landed at
- wizard of oz prom props
- who can be credited with the original definition of an auteur
- chuck koplinski
- Nude Donut Shop San Diego
- Hong Kong Bar Girls Street
- Gwenyth Paltrow Nude
- literary definition of psychomania
- Teletubbies are dead
- werewolf transformation
- give me the map of daresalam

June 15, 2005
Movie Day: Week Two
Week two is here -- we have officially doubled the number of movies that we (the Renter crew) have ever watched together in our organized summer effort to watch a film a week with each other. This week's movie was Bruce Brown's 1966 surfing documentary "Endless Summer" -- amazing!!! Some of the shots they got have got to still be some of the best surfing shots ever.

June 8, 2005
Movie Day: Week One
This week was week one and we watched Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" -- very entertaining. I'll keep you posted on future screenings...

June 5, 2005
Movie Day gets resurrected
Every summer we decide that we (the Renter crew) should all get together every week and watch a movie. So far, we have started this tradition three years running and have lasted one movie each. This year, we are trying something different. Once a week we are getting together at my house and watching a movie -- we call it "Movie Day." Let's see how long this lasts.

June 1, 2005
Happy Birthday, Rentertainment
Today is That's Rentertainment's birthday -- we're 20 years old!!! How about that...

March 28, 2005
Even more New Section Alerts!!!!!
We've split a few titles out of our overstuffed documentary section and given them sections of their own. These sections are "Environmental & Social Issues" and "American Politics" -- you'll find them on the top shelf of the Documentary section.

March 19, 2005
Another New Section Alert!!!
Thanks to Reut and the good folks at the Hillel Foundation here on campus we now have a larger selection of Israeli films. Their donation of over a dozen Israeli DVDs fills a few holes in our collection. Thanks!
March 15, 2005
New Section Alert!
We have just added a "Cooking & Nutrition" section to our vast array of excellent sections. It's pretty small right now but watch for more to be added soon.
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