RIP Blockbuster 1985-2014By
I’m actually a little sad today. We now basically live in a world without walk in movie rentals. Not walk up. Not push button. Walk in and browse. Take your time, look for what you want, and possibly ask for suggestions, video rental. I’m not lamenting the passing of Blockbuster per se but, in a certain sense, I am. To the victor go the spoils and they were the last holdout of the video store model. They were the ones who ran it into the ground and continued jacking up the prices of fees whilst media prices dropped but it still ends with them.
See there was a time before Blockbuster that I cherish very fondly. The wire frame shelves of my local generically named video store that were chock full of VHS covers shoved full of a piece of non-biodegradable Styrofoam conveniently sorted into your favorite “genres.” You’d find a gem of a genre and return hurriedly looking left and right of said tape for another gem trying to recapture the magic. Sometimes the employees would steer you in one direction or another or warn you off a complete turd. This is an experience we’ll most likely never have again.
See Redbox, Netflix and whatever future distribution models come along are cold. If you know what you want, it’s a quick fix should they have it and it is a wonderful thing. But it’s a one on one interaction with a faceless robot. It won’t give you dirty looks should you pick up copy of Madea Stands in Line at the DMV or give you that “OHHH MAN! You’re gonna love this!” when you wisen up and re-rent Pacific Rim again instead of Groan Ups 4: The Groan Uppening. No. They spit out whatever movie you click on without judgment. And what of beloved classics? Sure Netflix is a bit broader with its selections but it’s hardly complete. Not even when a Blockbuster became 75% new releases and 25% back catalog did it offer as little older variety as a Redbox does. I think that’s what saddens me the most is that we have taken film to a consume and discard model. The most highly regarded will always have a place on shelves both digital and commercial but where does this leave the forgotten VHS classics of the 1970s-1990s? We have proof already as today’s “B-movie” is almost always a Mockbuster film or just an algebraic formula of ridiculous such as ElephanBird Landslide (which is also my Fleetwood Mac cover band) designed to grab a few viewers to make up its budget and then be discarded forever. No there wouldn’t be films like Action U.S.A. or Order of the Black Eagle with an original (if possibly ludicrous) idea to compete with the limited digital presentation space.
So it is now that we can no longer curse them for ruining the industry that I sincerely say RIP Blockbuster. Someday I will carve alongside your name the other villainous corporate absorbers we hate today and miss tomorrow: Gamestop, Best Buy, etc etc etc.