Today’s Throwback post is just a wee bit different. Instead of ranting/raving about a movie from yesteryear, I’d like to go back and revisit some of the old avenues of moviegoing, during a time when I didn’t go to the theater as often (primarily because I was in school. . . well that, and I probably couldn’t get into most movies that were any good at the time because I was underage).
The thought dawned on me a little while ago about how little I so much as even think about renting movies from places like Blockbuster and whatever chains are still around in “fierce” competition with it. I still don’t have a Netflix account, but I’ll be looking to get one soon so renting films will be THAT much more convenient. With that said, I want to go back to a time and place where all we had were the stores to go buy/rent/check out stuff that’s just come out on DVD/VHS. In the process, I’m probably going to be very nostalgic and reminisce quite a lot — by definition that’s what this thread is all about — so I apologize if this becomes too emotional for anyone. . . .
Opened: October, 1985 (Dallas, TX)
Remember walking into that immensely packed store full of shelves that were cluttered with DVD, VHS and video game titles and packages? The smell of all that collective plastic and — yes, the carpets — are forever seared into my nose’s memory. It was the same feeling I believe people get when they enter old libraries — being amongst a collection of creations, some made for informative purposes, some for simple, pure escapism. Blockbuster is hardly as big as a library, but it may as well be the library of home video. The blue-and-yellow partially-ripped ticket graphic that comprised the company logo is one of my favorite logos from back in the day. It still is today, but unfortunately I see fewer and fewer of these signs. This is due to a couple of things changing: chiefly, the way we consume. The advent of Netflix, Redbox and other similarly convenient avenues through which we rent and purchase our movies — hello, streaming — make going to Blockbuster seem like you’re going out of your way to get a movie.
Secondly, these stores have been closing left and right. In 2004, Blockbuster hit its peak with over 9,000 stores in the United States. As of this year, that number is down to 500. I’m sure Knoxville, TN is hardly an exception either. There is still one in Farragut, where I grew up, and I think a few more are dotted around the area but man is it easy to forget that they are there now. While they still have over 2,500 stores worldwide, they no longer dominate the block as they once did. I think I’ve bought more movies from Wal-Mart than I have ever rented anything from Blockbuster. (Sorry, buddy. It’s true.)
Even despite the store’s prolonged, if not inevitable, decrease in popularity, Blockbuster in the 1990s could have been the last bastion of the “classic family rental experience” (if there is such a thing). I think of it as the kindergarten of moviegoing from which I’d go on to realize how much I love film as a medium and a form of entertainment. When a competing chain (Hollywood Video) was constructed across the street, it got no love from the Little family. We continued to make our trips to the land of blue-and-yellow. (I think that chain is now defunct, as it was bought out in 2005 by Movie Gallery.) Aside from the obvious convenience of being able to order/rent movies online now and at good old Redbox, perhaps no experience can rival what it was like going into a Blockbuster and rummaging around through their seemingly endless shelves, searching for the perfect late-night entertainment (late night at the time meaning, like, 9 or 10 p.m.) The checking out process would rarely finish up without me insisting on buying some candy at the counter to go with it.
Alas, those days are long gone. Despite my fond memories of Blockbuster visits, it’s really now that is the time to rent — rent cheaply and rent a lot! If you’re going to Redbox, you may as well pick up a couple of titles since it’s all of $1.29 (I am irked by the fact that prices continue to go up on these, it used to be $1.09) per day that you keep hold of them. Netflix and other similar online/game console features allow you even more control over how much and what you want to watch on any given evening. If you watch movies on Netflix online, it’s even more portable. Take some flicks to go with you on that long drive back home. Flixter is a convenient new thing I’ve gotten into being an active visitor on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve earned a few free downloads including The Perfect Storm, The Iron Giant, and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
I’m certainly not unhappy about the new options we have today. It IS incredibly convenient with the number of different ways you can obtain. . . stuff, and with any luck it can be less expensive at times as well. I know Netflix continues to raise their monthly rates, and the price on Redbox dailies have increased by two dimes but hey, who’s counting. It’s still damn affordable; moreso than the $12 or $15 at the box office for crying out loud. And the best news of all is that stores like Blockbuster Home Video are still around for you to pop in every once in a while to see what you may have missed in theaters, or to see if there’s something random out there you might be bold enough to try without knowing anything about beforehand. This may be one more edge these stores might still have over Redbox et al: diversity. I can’t say for sure, but I know that with each trip I take to Redbox (granted, I go A LOT) the selections seem to be more limited each time. They only seem to hold about 200 or so titles, and I guarantee the blue-and-yellow holds far more than that. There’s probably that many in the horror section alone.
If ever you’re feeling in the mood for browsing a physical library of DVDs, video games and other stuff, the doors to Blockbuster will be wide open — mainly because there aren’t too many folks traveling through them! But there’s no doubt the game has changed for these companies. It’s tough to imagine it getting any easier for them, either.
But hey, what about you and your relationship with Blockbuster —
What/how was your first Blockbuster experience? When’s the last time you went, and do you remember what you rented?
How many stores are left where you live? Do you go there at all?
Do you use other outlets such as Netflix and Redbox? How often do you go out to see movies at the theaters, knowing there’s a cheaper option — renting at a later date?
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