Restoration at Woodward and Baltimore in Detroit


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  1. #1

    Default Obituary for Thomas Video

    I was a devoted fan of Thomas Video for over twenty years, stopping in a few times a week to pick up a few movies. Owner Jim Olinski stocked his shelves with offbeat movies that I grew to lust, many legendary titles mentioned in whisper by cult movie fanatics. I remember back in the late 80s, going through the various sections, renting three movies at a time.

    I just want to issue a shout out to Thomas Video and thank them for offering a world of film that I probably wouldn't have known about if they hadn't been there.

  2. #2


    NOOO! Thomas was, by far, the best video store in the entire Detroit area. I remember my neighbors getting one of the first VCRs - back when they came in two units, the tuner with the knobs and the cassette player itself. They drove across town to rent movies at Thomas, even after a video store opened up at the end of the block, just because Thomas had stuff nobody else had. I used to rent Mystery Science Theater 3000 videos from them after it went off the air. I also bought a bunch of their Criterion laser discs when they were clearing them out, and the THX Star Wars (still the best version available, believe it or not)

  3. #3


    Where was this store located? I was a video store person until I finally succumbed to dvds by mail and streaming ala Hulu and Netflix, Roku etc.

  4. #4


    If I recall, it was in Clawson. I remember they did a radio segment every week on 97.1 back in the 90's.

  5. #5


    Down here, I remember when the Blockbuster in downtown Wyandotte closed early in 2011 and was replaced by a still-operating medical office later that same year.

  6. #6


    Thomas Video, I believe, opened their first store somewhere on 14 Mile and then moved to a little strip mall on Main St one block south of 14 Mile in Clawson, where they stayed for years. High rent forced them to their "final destination" on Rochester Rd just south of 14 Mile, next to a Sunoco station on the corner. I was a customer for nearly thirty years and I don't rent online. I am also a self-employed individual and tried my damnest to support the store. And the rewards were tremendous. I think about so many movies I rented that I would never have seen. I lean to the offbeat and that was one of their specialties. The other day I was at Barnes & Noble and noticed a display rack with Rotten Tomato picks. One was a documentary, "Cutie and the Boxer," about two Japanese artists living in NYC, about their marriage and relationship and the gradual acknowledgement of the wife's status as an artist in her own right after living her life in the shadow of her avant-garde husband's status. (An excellent movie, BTW.) So I grabbed it and as I did, thought about how this is exactly the sort of movie I'd find on the shelf at Thomas Video. Movies have really influenced me, from Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley, Ki-Duk Kim, early John Woo (and other Hong Kong action directors) before they migrated their film making activities to the USA, documentary film-maker Errol Morris, and so many more.

    I do a lot of photography and recently picked up a book ("After Photography" by Fred Ritchin) about the changing technology we are currently experiencing, as our analog world is digitalized. First music (downloading instead of buying CDs), books (e-readers), and movies (Netflix) are killing businesses like Thomas Video. Bookstores, music shops, and video rental stores are disappearing at an alarming rate.

    (The Book Beat in Oak Park is still hanging in there.)

  7. #7


    Sounds like it was a grand store. I must admit I'm part of the movie and film streaming thing ala Roku and Netflix (which offers actually very little for streaming). DVD rentals via Netflix and Ebay sellers is helping the US Post Office stay afloat......

    And while not good for brick and mortar vid stores, Roku has some odd-ball free stream channels showing some so called B movies that often turn out to be very interesting, though not making it big in the theaters. Also lots of unusual documentary items come up from time to time on Roku's channel line up.

    I wonder what's going on at the main Detroit library's DVD collection? They also had some unique offerings if you were willing to dig.
    Last edited by Zacha341; September-01-14 at 07:45 AM.

  8. #8


    I think of "La Bote Noire", a Montreal institution in DVD rental and sales that attracts customers from across the region here. They used to have three stores and had to close two of them. The one left does brisk business but it has a lot to fight against to stay alive.

    I guess the technology is never far behind that can put them out of commission if they don't partake in it, go with the flow and improve their service to savvy customers. I remember the number of Repertory cinemas in this city at about 1980 was big enough to have twenty movies to see on any given night. The festivals are doing well, but the Rep Cinemas are few and far between these days.

  9. #9


    You had it all at Thomas Video: comics, Kung-Fu (one of the employees sponsored a "Whup-*ss" night of showing Kung-Fu flicks in the back room of Zoot's), Blaxploitation, quirky Indie films, foreign film, quirky-foreign-Indie films, etc. I knew a few guys who were more than kind to offer me discounts (after all, I did trek all the way from six mile to be there)-bless there hearts. I learned so much about films through them. My only gripe was trying to track down the movie that was the basis for Reservoir Dogs, only to have a middle-aged gal there give me "City on Fire", which was a 1970's disaster flick with Leslie Nielsen about a city that just happens to entirely catch on fire (ohhh, my drummer friend was so p*ssed off at me). Sorry I never returned Frighteners or Video Virgins 6, Thomas-we'll all miss ya'.

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