If you used to buy movies at the mall, it’s a lock you did your shopping at once place: Suncoast Motion Picture Company.

Informally known as Suncoast Video to most of its customers, the chain was ubiquitous in malls all over the United States in the 1990s. The stores stocked hundreds of titles on VHS and later on DVD. They also sold music, and various movie and pop-culture related toys and collectibles. All the stores had the same distinctive red neon sign hanging over the entrance.

If you grew up loving movies in the ’90s, just that logo alone will probably make you nostalgic. I worked in a mall in the late ’90s; I would go on my breaks to shop at Suncoast. At a time when most movies were still pan-and-scanned, Suncoast was one of the few reliable places to get letterboxed movies. They had a whole section of titles in the proper aspect ratio. For a suburban movie dork, it was paradise.

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Founded in 1986 in Minnesota, Suncoast expanded rapidly, as its parent company changed hands repeatedly through the later years of the 20th century. At one point they were part of Musicland — the same conglomerate that owned other mall physical media stores like the famous Sam Goody. In the early 2000s, Musicland was acquired by Best Buy.

As this vintage ad boasts, during Suncoast’s heyday they were located in more than 400 malls around the country.

Sadly, within a few years, the chain had filed for bankruptcy. Suncoast was bought by another massive corporation — Trans World Entertainment, the company behind other long-lost retail chains like Coconuts, Record Town, and The Wall. (Remember The Wall? Remember The Wall money-back guarantee stickers? Those were the good old days.)

New ownership didn’t change things much; Suncoast closed dozens of stores through the end of the 2000s. By the 2020s, there were only three — from 400+ to three! — Suncoast Motion Picture Company locations left in the United States. One is in the Parkdale Mall in Beaumont Texas; another can be found in the Jacksonville Mall in North Carolina. The third is in The Mall at Farfield Commons in Ohio, although that one is partly an FYE, another of Trans World’s chains which still operates a couple hundred locations.

This video gives you a look inside one of the last remaining Suncoasts. It looks ... pretty much like the Suncoasts of old. It still even has that classic neon sign. They never updated the logo.

Even to a nostalgic movie lover, it can’t be too shocking that there are less than a handful of Suncoasts left in the world. In an era of when so many people have abandoned DVDs, Blu-rays, and 4Ks for the immediacy of streaming there is little need for a retail store that carries a massive physical media library. Fans don’t want to have to schlep to a store on the hope that the movie they’re looking for is in stock; most will simply rent or stream it at home. If they can’t find the movie they’re looking for at home, they’ll pick one of the hundreds of other titles they can watch instantly. Suncoast belongs to different era of cinephilia.

Different — but not necessarily worse. Sure, instant access is great. But there are thousands upon thousands of films and television shows that aren’t available on streaming. (Netflix has a few thousand titles in its streaming library. Before they dropped DVDs late last year their library offered tens of thousands of options.) Places like Suncoast had all sorts of obscurities you can’t find anymore, and a lot of the stuff that falls through the cracks now likely won’t be seen by anyone again anytime soon.

A Suncoast comeback seems like the longest of long shots. Frankly, I’m a little surprised there are this many outlets left right now! But maybe when a few more close, that final store could become a novelty just by its mere existence. It happened to Blockbuster; the once-ubiquitous rental chain’s last outlet (in Bend, Oregon of all places) is now something of a geek Mecca. Could the same happen to the last Suncoast?

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