As Brian Hogan walks to a back area of his basement, he passes by a collection of DVDs that are carefully lined up on old rental store shelves. The movies are categorized by different themes like action, comedy, horror, drama and sci-fi. Hogan, who has John Carpenter's "Lost Themes III: Alive After Death" vinyl playing, looks around the room as he turns down the volume.
“It’s ludicrous,” Hogan says of his room in an interview with the Des Moines Register, part of the USA TODAY Network.
It's actually a trip down memory lane. To a time when you had to go to a local rental store to grab your favorite movies. It was a time before Netflix and online streaming. It’s a time that Hogan, a 38-year-old barber, wants to feel a part of whenever he comes down to the basement of his Urbandale, Iowa, home after a day of work to relax and reflect.
“It just feels nice being here,” Hogan said. “I don’t think you’ll see video stores opening up anymore. I don’t think they’re sustainable, unfortunately.”
So Hogan has done the next best thing. He’s transformed part of his basement into a replica rental store that houses more than 6,000 DVDs and at least another 1,000 videos. Each video is lined up in alphabetical order. It’s just like a rental store of yesteryear, with movie posters hanging on the walls and collectibles displayed throughout. Hogan even has a cash register.
“It is a man cave that looks like a video rental store,” his wife Erin said.
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That’s always been the goal. Brian, a longtime lover of movies, needed a place to store all of his DVDs and tapes. So when his daughter moved away for college, he converted her room into his own makeshift rental store. The spot is so well done, so perfectly crafted and already so popular that it has made Hogan a social media star. Now he and his rental store — er, basement — are catching the attention of celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen DeGeneres.
Hogan's passion for flicks
Hogan's love of movies came from his father Jeff Hogan. Jeff took Brian to movies at an early age, including a showing of "Goodfellas" when he was 8 years old. Their family would head to the local movie rental store after school on Friday and pick out movies for the weekend.
"He never censored me," Brian said. "He would just say, 'Pick out whatever you want.' So I was probably watching stuff I shouldn't have. But he didn't seem to care."
Brian's love of movies grew. His first job was working behind the counter at a local Hy-Vee's movie rental center when he was 14. The biggest perk of the job: The promotional movie posters he was able to collect. Even after the job, Hogan kept collecting replica props, DVDs and tapes. Hogan, like his dad, took his kids to the video store to celebrate the start of the weekend.
He bought DVDs and cassettes wherever he could. He'd rummage through boxes at garage and estate sales. He'd purchase cheap movies at Goodwill or the Salvation Army, getting what he thought were steals on used cassettes or DVDs. One tape he picked up had three movies recorded on it: "Rocky," "Grease" and "Steel Magnolias." The owner had printed the synopsis from the television guide and taped it on the video. Hogan ended up with five copies of "The Rundown," starring The Rock and Seann William Scott, because he kept purchasing the movie over and over when it would get lost in his collection.
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"I'd always be like, 'Oh, I want to watch that movie, it's terrible' and I couldn't find it but I always knew I could get a copy at Goodwill for like two dollars," Hogan said.
The movies range from "Speed" to "Shallow Hal" and "In the Line of Fire" to "Old School." And the collection got so big that there would be stacks of them everywhere in the house. Hogan would pile up movies on the kitchen table, the counter, the bedroom and even the bathroom. Finding a specific movie was chaotic.
As rental stores across Des Moines started shutting down and his daughter moved away for college, Hogan got an idea about how to organize his movies and collectibles.
Transforming the basement
The idea of transforming his basement really began to take shape when a pair of local rental stores announced they were closing. The two, Family Video and Video Warehouse, were places Hogan frequently visited. When the two started getting rid of movies and materials, Hogan grabbed some of the shelving.
He brought them down to a couple of rooms in his basement and used them as his own displays in two rooms, creating aisles to walk through and scan through movies. He hung up posters and put up faux brick paneling on the outside of the main room with a window he got from the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Hogan purchased a red "Open" sign at Sam's Club and a door off Facebook Marketplace for $20.
The door leads into the main room, which splits into a back room full of cassettes, two chairs and multiple television sets to watch movies on. Hogan picked up a clip rack that holds bags of Doritos on the end of one of the shelves as if they're ready for purchase. A replica E.T. doll sits in the corner. On a window ledge is a replica Wilson volleyball from the movie "Cast Away." Hogan has a replica Slimer (from "Ghostbusters") sitting on some movies. He's filled out the rest of the area with other trinkets, a mini fridge and an old movie rental sleeve that's displayed on one of the walls.
"I was coming home one weekend from college and I was going downstairs and I opened up my bedroom door and I just saw that there was a bunch of shelves in my room and there were a bunch of DVDs," said his daughter Bickley Riley. "I was shocked but I wasn't too entirely shocked. I knew he was going to do something ridiculous with it."
Hogan started on the project in September of 2020. Finding a place to store things wasn't his only ambition. Hogan, who owns Franklin Barber Shop in Beaverdale, Iowa, was feeling down as his business took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. To lift his spirits, he went to work on the project, getting help from some friends and family members.
"He's always been like, 'I always wanted to work in a video store' and as you see video stores closing and really no future for those to re-open, this was another way for him to kind of live that out vicariously," Erin said.
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Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen come calling
Erin wasn't sure what to expect when she grabbed her phone and started giving a tour of the replica store, which takes up about a third of the couple's 1,669-square-foot basement.
"During quarantine, my husband built a video rental store in our basement," Erin said as she gave the tour.
She then uploaded it to TikTok and watched it go viral, with more than 500,000 likes and 55,000 shares. Erin, who used the name @thevideobunker, was overwhelmed by the attention it got.
"I think for a lot of people, it's nostalgia and connecting to nostalgia," Erin said. "We got a lot of comments like, 'Does it smell like a Blockbuster?' People equate that with different times, happier times. And it does for us, too."
The video has even caught the attention of Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen DeGeneres, whose producers have reached out to the Hogans about possibly including them on their show.
The basement rental store may look like a finished product, but Brian said it's far from done. He fixing a popcorn machine and adding a bell to the door. The hope is to eventually turn the remainder of the basement into a movie theater with a marquee. Brian is still grabbing what he can from Video Warehouse while it's still open and hopes to be the business's final customer. Jon Fridley, the store's general manager, said he's happy to see some of his things keeping the movie store experience alive.
"It's kind of cool to be able to provide him with some of the supplies and fixtures," Fridley said.
In the meantime, Brian plans to keep tinkering with the project. Now that he's got his replica video store, he said he hasn't given up on his dream of eventually owning a real one.
"Fingers crossed," he said with a smile.
Tommy Birch, the Register's sports enterprise and features reporter, has been working at the newspaper since 2008. He's the 2018 and 2020 Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Reach him at email@example.com or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Blockbuster replica: Iowa man turns basement into movie rental store