The End of Blockbuster

I came across an article yesterday announcing that Blockbuster would be shuttering its few remaining brick and mortar stores, and as I read it, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, there are many things about the movie store experience that I won’t miss. Blockbuster employees probably swindled me out of hundreds of dollars over the years, as they always seemed to contrive ways to claim I hadn’t returned my lousy movies on time. (Well, maybe not hundreds of dollars, though then again, this is 1990s dollars we’re talking about. Maybe it was *thousands* of dollars in today money.) And this means I won’t ever have the feeling of standing there in a room with thousands of movies, overwhelmed by indecision as I try to figure out what I want to watch. (Or worse yet, try to convince a group of people what they want to watch.)

That said, there’s a lot I actually miss about the movie store experience. In many ways, it felt a lot like a library to me. (And why not–it essentially was a movie library that charged for circulation.) All those movies–all those choices. Yes, I still have a similar range of options when I turn to Netflix or Amazon InstantWatch, but there’s something different about having the movies physically present. Seeing the condition they’re each in. You could tell a popular old movie just by looking at the case. You knew what the new releases were simply by glancing at the number of copies on the shelves, and you knew just how popular a new release was by seeing how many of the copies weren’t available.

I have a lot of fond memories of trips to Blockbuster. Before my mission, I joined their frequent renters club (whatever that was called), and I would check out something like 5 movies at a time, go home, binge watch them, and then go back for more. Sometimes you’d get idiots at the stores who didn’t know what they were talking about when it came to film, but often there’d be people who knew their stuff. It was a great place to trade picks and get recommendations.

Blockbuster was a big part of my teenage years. Hopping in the car with friends to go get a movie. It’s not something I experience as much anymore, though that’s not really due to Blockbuster closing. These days, if I watch a movie with friends, it’ll be at the theater. At home with family, we have the debate over what to watch on Netflix–but it just isn’t the same. In some ways, going to Blockbuster felt a bit like gambling. You might have an idea what you wanted to watch, but what if it was checked out? Were you willing to stake a half hour of your life on it being there? What was your back up selection? Your back up back up?

And of course, Blockbuster closing leads me to the next question: will the same thing happen for libraries? If ebooks were to become readily and easily available on some sort of consortial basis, many people wonder if libraries become redundant. The answer is easy if you know libraries well: libraries are about much more than books these days. People who argue otherwise are almost never people who actually use libraries. But that’s a topic for a different day.

For today–for now–I just want to observe a moment of virtual silence for an institution I loved and hated and hated to love and loved to hate. A company that like it or not played a big part in fostering my love for movies.


Thank you, Blockbuster.

How about you all out there? Any favorite Blockbuster stories (or horror stories) to share? Speak up!

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