ATOMIC CITY VIDEO® was founded in 1980 by filmmaker Roger Corwin who built a minor Hollywood empire in the late 1950’s and 1960’s producing low-budget “B-Movies” for the drive-in theater circuit. His two biggest successes; ‘Drag Strip Zombies’ and ‘Bikini Bloodbath’ sparked moral outrage among conservative groups, educational and religious organizations thanks to Corwin’s over-the-top use of sex, nudity, shocking violence and gore. Following its initial release ‘Bikini Bloodbath’ would go on to become the highest grossing independent film of all-time until the release of ‘John Carpenter’s Halloween’ in 1978.
Changing audience tastes, bad investments and a string of box office failures in the mid-1970s left Corwin near financial ruin leading to the eventual collapse of ‘Corwin International Pictures’. He quietly left the film industry and retired to the Las Vegas valley in 1978.
From his desert home Corwin watched as seemingly overnight the home video rental market which began modestly in the late 1970’s suddenly exploded and the “home video revolution” swept the nation. Never one to miss an opportunity, and citing the affordability of home video cassette recorders (VCR) and the recent adoption of the VHS format (over Betamax) by the adult film industry, Corwin opened the first Atomic City Video® location in Las Vegas on Thursday, July 1, 1980.
“Atomic Video” as it was known locally was named after Nevada’s long history with atomic weapons testing. A fitting brand identity since atomic radiation was influential in many of Corwin’s early “monster” films, often serving as the catalyst for several of his most famous (and infamous) cinematic monsters and mutants.
A second store in Henderson (Atomic #002) opened in 1981 followed by the first Arizona location in the West Valley (Atomic #003) which opened in early 1982 helping Atomic establish a strong foothold in the southwest region.
In 1982, “Atomic City Video” was formally re-branded becoming “Atomic Video” as the small chain expanded into markets outside its home state of Nevada. (Las Vegas area locations retained the classic "Atomic City" title.)
Attempting to honor the Horror film legacy of their founder, the Arizona locations began holding their successful “Friday Night Frights” rental events in October of 1983 featuring special screenings of genre titles, special in-store promotions such as the pioneering move of offering free popcorn and discounted horror rentals throughout the fall. Boosted by the rise in popularity of modern Horror films and "slasher" films during the mid-1980's ‘Friday Night Frights’ soon became a customer favorite and annual event at all Atomic Video locations.
As America’s appetite for home entertainment grew, so did Atomic Video. By 1992 there were Atomic Video® locations in 48 states, with the largest footprint across the southwestern United States.
Recognized as a rental industry pioneer in 2004 when he was honored with the prestigious Golden Tape® Award, Roger Corwin passed away on November 21, 2005. At the time of his death, thanks to his tireless work and innovative ideas, Atomic Video had successfully secured its place among the leaders of the home video rental industry.
In the years following his passing, the company would continue its heated battle against rival chains Mega Video® and Movietown® as well as the automated BlueBox® machines and Net Flicks® streaming delivery service. In late 2013 after struggling for nearly a decade to remain profitable in a rapidly changing marketplace the company was forced to file for bankruptcy, eventually shuttering all but one Atomic Video location in 2014.
Today, Atomic Video store (Location #003) remains open as a reminder of what once was. Still serving specialty and hard-to-find films, blockbusters and boutique titles to film buffs, collectors and students in the same location where it has been entertaining the west valley since opening its doors in the summer of 1983.
Atomic Video is located at the Graceland Hills Plaza with other 1980s survivors, Pizza Shack™, BattleZone Arcade™ and Toxic Comics®.
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