Do you miss Blockbuster? I do. Raise your hand if you’re old enough to have rented movies at a Blockbuster Video. Even though I’m officially feeling old and it hurt, I did raise my hand!
Let me set the stage…
I’m 40, live in Southern California and I’m a sucker for nostalgic stuff. I’m also pretty connected in 2020, technology wise.
Installed on my smart TV I have paid subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, HBO Max, DC Universe and Disney+. So it’s safe to say I have a pretty wide range of movie choices at my disposal. Oh yeah, and a cabinet of DVD’s and Blu-Rays I haven’t looked at in 4 years.
Now that you know I watch way too much TV, let’s get to my long lost love, Blockbuster Video.
The very first Blockbuster Video opened in Dallas, Texas in 1985. And at its peak in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, had over 9,000 stores globally. That’s a lot of overpriced candy!
But I didn’t go for the candy. I went for the memories and mostly crappy movies.
In my teenage years I grew up poor. It was just me and my Grandma, so going to see a movie in theatres was almost always out of the question. When asked if I’d seen a new movie in theatres, me embarrassed I would sometimes lie and say “Of course I saw that movie…it was awesome” and hoped they didn’t ask me any questions about it. With that in mind, I would get really excited to see the new releases on Blockbuster’s shelves on a Friday night. It was a chance for me to try and catch up, feel normal.
The nearest Blockbuster to me was a few blocks away. Its illuminated blue and yellow sign stood out like an angel in the middle of a cheap strip mall. The parking lot was always dimly lit and dangerous. It was always an adventure at Blockbuster!
Putting aside the fear of potentially being robbed or murdered in a Blockbuster parking lot, I would always get excited to pop in and pick up 3 movies for the weekend.
Walking by the candy I couldn’t afford and the video games for the consoles I didn’t have, I can see in the distance “New Releases.”
Back in those days we didn’t have online trailers and I didn’t watch much TV!
Video renters like me were guided by the starring actors they’ve heard of, Directors they enjoyed, movie name titles and the video cover art. I can’t count all the times I was duped by good cover art and told myself “this has to be good” only to hate myself for sitting through “End Of Days.”
There was something exciting about playing video renter roulette. Whether it was watching a movie by myself, with friends or a date (I wish) I always felt like it was my sacred duty to make the right picks.
I was also driven by other people’s choices in store.
Standing like a deer in headlights looking at the rows of movies I’d hear a “Fight Club was a great movie.” I’d also do the “lean” and see what other people had in their hands or were checking out at the counter.
Seeing other renters like me, families, goths, sport guys, music heads and everyone you can imagine, young and old would make me feel like I was not alone in my video adventure.
Now with all of my home movie streaming options, only a few buttons away from playing, I feel disconnected from my past. It’s become so easy that I feel like I’m using cheat codes in the game of life..
On my smart tv I still see the cover art. I see the titles. I see the descriptions, but it’s not the same.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very appreciative of my current streaming options and the ease of use. It’s incredible! But there was an odd beauty in things being a little difficult to get. The difference between eating at a restaurant and having it delivered…it’s the same food, but not the same experience.
In closing, do I want to go back to the physical rental days”? Do I want streaming services to go away? HELL NO! But in 2020 I would have loved to drive by a Blockbuster on my way to work and imagine a long haired 16 year old picking up Fight Club or Gladiator for the first time, forgetting to bring it back, owing $10.50 more after a few weeks of putting it off and getting yelled at by his Mom.
Let me know if you miss Blockbuster in the comments.
Until next time, pour one out for all the lost video stores. I miss you.