Rentertainment news... a blog of sorts.
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)
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
#20,000 is here!!!!
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
5,000 - Homicide:
Seasons 1 & 2 Disc 2 (Television)
10,000 - Scarface
15,000 - Taxi
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"?
Richard L Merritt (August 8, 1933 - November 19, 2005)
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.
Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price
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.
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...
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.
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.
New "content" at rentertainment.com
I've added two more pages to the web-site (because content is
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.
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:
-- 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...
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
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
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.
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.
Another cool Web site...
DVDBeaver.com 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,
and a ton of links
to other excellent sites. Check it out!
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.
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
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!
If anyone out there has an original French one-sheet from "La
Belle et la Bete" they want to get rid of let
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...
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:
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
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
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.
As always, if there are any great films you think we need please
let me know.
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.
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.
VHS IS DEAD -- LONG LIVE VHS!!!
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
VHS TAPE SALE:
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
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.
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
Movie Day: Week Five
(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.
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...
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,
(Hell on Wheels)" -- possibly the best cycling
documentary ever made. Only a few more days until the 2005 Tour
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
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
Web Stats are fun
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
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
-- amazing!!! Some of the shots they got have got to still be
some of the best surfing shots ever.
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...
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.
Happy Birthday, Rentertainment
Today is That's Rentertainment's
birthday -- we're 20 years old!!! How about that...
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
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
films. Their donation of over a dozen Israeli DVDs fills a few holes
in our collection. Thanks!
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