Video Mania

314 S. Main
1520 W. 12th
2412 W. 41st
2019 S. Minnesota
3301 E. 26th
4101 Southeastern
If you’re old enough, you can remember the amazing early 1980s when home video viewing started to become a thing. It used to be if you wanted to watch a major motion picture in the privacy of your own home you’d have to wait for one to come around to a broadcast network, or one of the few available cable channels. When it did, bathroom and snack breaks, if any, were set for you by the network. It’s the story we tell our kids these days that replaces the old “three miles to school, up hill both ways” story that our forbears told us. Enter the video cassette recorder to change the world.
The original location photographed in June 2006, several years after its time as a Mecca for movie lovers.
The first home video recorders came on the market in the early 1970s, but didn’t become affordable to the average household until the early to mid 1980s. One could record a show and watch it later, and even schedule a recording for later viewing. The future had arrived! As the VCR became more commonplace, movie studios began to release movies on videocassette. In the early days you could order a pre-recorded videocassette of a movie for about $99. I say order, because $99 movies were a difficult sell, and not normally available in stores. This did, however, open the door for video rental. A movie could be purchased by a rental business at wholesale prices, usually $45 to $55, and be rented multiple times to eventually reap a profit.

Enter Harlan Jacobsen, a Sioux Falls native who’d recently returned from Arizona to start a UHF station. In 1981, while working on the station and waiting for the FCC to approve his license, he opened a little video store at 318 S. Main. Video Mania was established with an inventory of 180 video tapes. The store was open for three days before any tapes were rented. It was worrisome, but soon Jacobsen’s fears were put to rest.
Harlan at the downtown store in 1999.
To begin with, a rental was $2.50 for 24 hours, but kid’s movies were $1. As the business grew, there’d be 2 for 1 days on Tuesday and Wednesday, traditionally slow rental days. If you didn’t have a VCR yet, one could be rented, and in the early days of video rental, they often were. Video Mania was also a good place to rent video cameras and recorders - two separate devices, and both very bulky. They were $6.66 each until camcorders became a thing a few years later.

For a while, the home video industry seemed content to sell its films to cinephiles and video stores, the only market for their expensive titles. this changed in a major way in 1987. Paramount’s 1986 blockbuster Top Gun was soon to be released on video. They were pricing the videotape at $26.95, but it could be acquired for $19.95 with an easily obtained coupon from Pepsi products. A Pepsi ad shown before the movie helped to lower the cost of the release. This made it an immediate hit, and copies flew off the shelf faster than Maverick and Goose buzzing the control tower at Miramar.
Workmen move the iconic Video Mania sign up 4 1/2 feet to make way for an awning.
In November of 1988, Video Mania’s downtown store expanded to take up more of the building it was in. The store’s stock expanded as well. It was then called the Video Mania Superstore. There were thousands of films to browse at the Superstore, with ratings G to X. Earlier that year, Video Mania Drive-Up opened at 1520 W. 12th. It was a tiny store, but did brisk business in a competitive market. Other players in the rental business were Prairie Market, Randall Foods, Lewis, Popingo, Family Video, and Best Buy.
The Fun Store at the time of its closing in 2008. 
Video Mania would open several more stores in years to come, most with their own sequel-like names - Movie City at 2412 W. 41st in 1989, The Fun Store at 2019 S. Minnesota occupied the old Carlson’s Paint building, adapting the familiar neon-lit paint buckets to suggest that fun was pouring out of them. The Outpost at 3301 E. 26th opened in March 1993, as did the Southeastern store at 4101 Southeastern.

The fifth and sixth stores at 3301 East 26th St. and 4101 Southeastern in 1993, shortly after their openings.
Eventually, changes in the industry began to erode Video Mania’s business. Netflix had a huge selection and would ship direct to your mailbox. Midcontinent Cable offered video on demand, and often those titles were available before they were released for home video. The Outpost closed in 1998 with only five years under its belt. Southeastern closed by 1999, as did the Superstore downtown. The new Washington Pavilion looked to make parking more difficult for pick-ups and drop-offs at the Main Street location, and the owners of the building where Video Mania was located wanted to put in a nice restaurant or something to reflect the prestige of the Pavilion. Movie City on 41st closed in August, 2004, Drive-Up on 12th in 2007. The remaining store, the Fun Store on Minnesota, closed in August 2008.
The 41st street location at the time of its closing in 2004. Harlan Jacobsen removes a familiar neon sign once displayed in the window.
Video Mania was something I’m glad I experienced. The place was rough around the edges for sure, with makeshift bins nailed together from pieces of previously-used plywood paneling. It had none of the glossy comfort of Popingo or Hollywood Video, but those stores didn’t carry 12 Angry Men, Eraserhead, or many of the other movies that weren’t fairly new or mainstream releases. At least locally, Video Mania invented the after-hours drop off, re-purposing a mail slot in an unused door at the Superstore. When I went there, I’d often go home with 3-4 movies and sometimes the clerk, who always knew my membership number (C19338), would throw another movie she thought I’d like on my pile for free. Video Mania was the place for movie lovers to find what they wanted, and I miss it.
Harlan in 2008.
Harlan died March 29, 2014 in Tempe Arizona. Video Mania is only one of the things he accomplished. He also ran the second longest running singles paper in the US, and fought against what he felt was unfair taxation of his papers.