Watch This fills the gap left by the demise of St. Louis' best video stores

As lovers of obscure films are acutely aware, the St. Louis video rental landscape is desolate, filled with scant selection and little depth -- unless you're looking for the entire Adam Sandler oeuvre. (Asian cinema? Yeah, right.) Gone are the days when Bijou Video on Delmar and Whiz Bam! on South Grand awed the buffs with row upon row of classic obscurities. When both shuttered a few years back, they left a gaping hole.

Enter online DVD-rental store, the savior of backwater film markets. You pay a $20 monthly fee, then browse the online selection of 12,000 titles (many of them otherwise hard to find). Discs are mailed to your doorstep up to three at a time, complete with a postage-paid return envelope. When you send back a film, Netflix ships you the next one (or two or three) in your online rental queue. There are no late fees. It's a nearly perfect concept -- except for the turnaround time, which averages three to five days from warehouse to mailbox.

But that's about to change, as the company prepares to unveil a shipping center "somewhere in downtown St. Louis," according to Netflix spokesman P.H. Mullen Jr.

Mullen declines to reveal the specific address because of safety concerns. But that's not the point. What matters is that when the center opens in late May, customers within a 50- to 70-mile radius can pretty much count on one-day service.

OK, so it's not the mom-and-pop video store of your nostalgic dreams. But do you want the complete Mr. Show series? They got it. An avalanche of Bollywood titles? Yep. Wang Kar-Wai's Happy Together? Check. As the man said: Go crazy, folks.

Like y'all, we're aware that it's not a story till the Post-Dispatch writes about it, so we were gratified to see Jerry Berger's April 23 screed, in which the columnist, "whose own favorite malted beverage includes fresh bananas and is produced at Crown Candy Kitchen, passes along a report from Benj Steinman, prez of the industry journal Beer Marketers Insights. According to Steinman, a quiet renaissance of yesteryear blue-collar fave Pabst Blue Ribbon is being fueled by sales to retro-minded youngsters 'in the Pacific Northwest, New York and Midwestern urban centers like St. Louis.'"

RFT readers doubtless recall Mike Seely's February 5 feature, "Drinkin' Dirt," which told the Pabst tale, albeit without the whipped-cream topping. Other papers across the nation bellied up to the bar ahead of the P-D, from the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch (March 1) to the Asheville Citizen-Times (April 4) to the Washington Post (April 20) to the Idaho Statesman (April 21).

News travels, um, fast.

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