Robert Bork’s Favorite Video Store (At Last) Closes Its Doors

April 27th, 2014

You may recall that Robert Bork frequented Potomac Video, and a reporter was able to obtain his entire rental history.

Coincidentally, Bork happened to frequent Potomac Video, the same video rental store as then-Washington City Paper writer Michael Dolan. And after finding out their shared retail behavior, Dolan asked the assistant manager on duty for a look at Bork’s rental history.

He got the full xeroxed list.

Its contents were, by his account, pretty boring: A lot of Hitchcock and British costume dramas. In fact, Dolan wrote that the most surprising thing about his rental history was the 146 tapes he checked out in less than two years — making him ideal for the job of “Supreme Couch Potato.”

That gleefully irreverent tone of Dolan’s report and the fact that he got the list at all became a much bigger deal than the content of Bork’s rental history — eventually resulting in the passage of the VPPA in 1988.

The last branch of Potomac Video is (finally, at last) closing.

The closing of Potomac Video, the last-standing video store in Washington, after 33 years marks the end of an industry that for many local residents fizzled years ago. The rise of Netflix, the popularity of streaming video and the ubiquitous presence of on-demand television channels have slowly eroded the movie rental industry, analysts say.

In its heyday, Potomac Video had 24 stores, and its flagship in the District’s Chevy Chase neighborhood brought in $1 million a year. But recently, there were times when monthly sales barely covered the store’s overhead costs of $25,000.

For regulars of Potomac Video, many of whom have been frequenting the shop since it opened in the 1980s, the news has dealt a particularly brutal blow.

I’m disappointed the Washington Post didn’t connect the two. Bork was, by far, Potomac Video’s most famous customer, and led to an Act of Congress–the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988.