Jan
13

RIP Blockbuster 1985-2014

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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.

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Categories : 70s, 80s, 90s, Words

Comments

  1. Aimee says:

    I do hate Blockbuster and am happy to see it go. I don’t know how many times I had to fight with employees who opened the store on a Sunday at noon and maintained that I had dropped off a video late even though I brought it in Sunday at 8 before church. They would always say “There’s an automatic bar coder that scans it when you drop it in”. Yeah. SURE THERE IS.

    I’m happy to say that Louisville still has an amazing video rental store that I don’t believe will ever go under. They specialize in hard to find movies, and have over 20,000 titles. It’s the kind of place where I have late fees, and they’ll let me rent movies anyway as long as I pay something on my late fee, which is usually a buck. I’ll die with late fees at that place. Wanna rent a season of a tv show? $4 for an entire week. If there’s a movie you want but they don’t have, they’ll get it. They stock movies made by local filmmakers. They are just doing everything right, are in a great location, and I don’t see them having any trouble staying in business. You want a new release? They got it. Weird X rated film? They have those too.

    Wild and Wooly Video fo’ life.

    Crash and Burn.
    Aimee

  2. Maki Maki says:

    That place sounds awesome! The issue more is that it used to be EVERY video store was that. Then Blockbuster moved in and destroyed that ecosystem… Even though conceivably, that never should have happened, since the price differences weren’t that large. I guess being the only place that had 75 copies of a new release is what eventually turned the tide.

    Here’s to hoping there’s a renaissance of rental stores soon. I suspect there would be, since so many movies fall through the cracks and can’t be found streaming or on rental now. Somebody will move in to fill that gap, since not everyone is willing to trust Ye Olde Pirate Baye just because they want to check out Gremlins 2 tonight. At least I’d hope that’s the case, that somebody would move to fill that void.

  3. Bennett says:

    Well said, Harlo. I haven’t rented a movie in ages (to my wife’s chagrin, I usually just buy them), but I’m going to miss video stores. Browsing, hunting, finding those hidden gems… largely a thing of the past. I wish we had a place like Aimee is talking about. Sounds fantastic.

  4. Eric says:

    Yeah, well said Harlo.
    I remember riding my bike about 5 miles down a country road to the our local “Beavercreek Video” store to rent Superman 2 or some other vhs from 1980.
    It was a lot of fun getting to go do it too, as I often had a friend with me that would also pick a movie. Then we’ d go buy a bunch of candy, ride back home & watch our flicks…
    These were undoubtedly some of the best times of my youth, and I still think about those trips today.
    And as for Blockbuster, they were eventually the competition when I started working at a local chain here in Oregon called American Family Video, so I never really liked them all that much anyway !
    There is also a small store in SE Portland called Movie Madness, look em up on the interwebs, they are a great store and are just like the one that Amiee mentioned.
    The owner even buys Hollywood props, costumes and memorabilia to fill the store with, its a cool store. Its been around for ages and I doubt it will go away anytime soon either…
    Crash N Burn !

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