OPINION: Blockbuster Nostalgia

//DAVID ROBINSON//

Do you know what I miss? Blockbuster. That place was one of my favorite weekend destinations. Some of the most frequent questions I asked my parents as a kid included, “Can we go to Blockbuster? When are we going to Blockbuster? Are we going to Blockbuster after this? Could you stop on your way home from work and pick this up from Blockbuster?” These questions did irritate my parents at times, but they were happy to go most of the time because they too loved the experience offered by Blockbuster. It was considered good, clean fun to walk around the aisles of Blockbuster,  gaze upon the countless movie and video game options before you and talk about movies with whoever you were visiting the store with. Almost every time I visited Blockbuster, I would hear a gasp from someone who then said to whoever they were visiting the store with, “Did you see this? It was insane!” Other times, I would hear a chuckle followed by someone saying, “Oh my God. This looks awful.”

Then, one dark day, hellfire rained down on my childhood. A huge sign with the words “Everything must go” printed in bold yellow letters was pasted on the window to the right of the entrance. I immediately replayed of all the famous “no” yells from films in my head as I read the letters with wide eyes.

Years later, I hold those memories of walking through Blockbuster’s aisles with great nostalgia. We all know why Blockbuster is virtually nonexistent today; entertainment services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video have eviscerated the idea of physically leaving your home to rent entertainment. People consider it so much more convenient nowadays to stay in the comfort of your own home and watch entertainment via streaming services.

Although this is more convenient in terms of gas money/transportation fees, effort and time, it is not more convenient in terms of social and physical interaction. If I had the choice of walking around the aisles of Blockbuster or scrolling/swiping through Netflix, I would always choose going to Blockbuster. Why? Because you could go to Blockbuster with friends or family, buy snacks, look through the aisles, choose a movie/video game/TV show and then rent or buy it. Despite what their advertisements might make you believe, the majority of people who are watching entertainment on streaming services are watching it alone after simply scrolling/swiping through the categories, stopping at a TV show/movie and saying, “Hey, that looks good.”

Do you see how boring that is compared to making a visit to Blockbuster? Plus, if you were looking for recommendations, you could go up to an employee, tell them what type of entertainment you like and they would work with you to help you find something they think you would enjoy. The extent of Netflix’s and streaming services’ interaction with you when you are looking for recommendations is a generic, pre-made list of recommendations that, almost always, does not interest the viewer(s).

Blockbuster also provided experience for those who wanted to pursue a career in the film industry. Many filmmakers worked at video rental stores prior to starting their careers. “Pulp Fiction” (1994), “Reservoir Dogs” (1992) and “Kill Bill” (2003-4) director Quentin Tarantino worked at a video rental store in Manhattan Beach, California called Video Archives for five years. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” actor Danny Strong described Tarantino as a “fantastic video store clerk” and reflected on his love for recommending movies to customers. Blockbuster, and video rental stores, in general, provided aspiring filmmakers with the opportunities to get hands-on experience with films, experience public opinion about movies and learn how to interact with movie audiences. The only experience Netflix and streaming services offer to aspiring filmmakers is being able to easily watch movies; nothing more, nothing less.

If I counted how many times I went to Blockbuster and they did not have what I was looking for, I could count them on one hand. If I were to then count how many times I logged onto Netflix and found out that they did not have what I was looking for, I would not be able to fit all of the instances on both hands; as a matter of fact, I would say about 80 percent of the time I log on to Netflix, I leave disappointed.

There are few things in the world I miss more than Blockbuster. It was one of my favorite childhood destinations and it was where I always planned on getting my first job. Unfortunately, almost 98 percent of all Blockbuster locations have been closed for good and there are no petitions, protests or outrages capable of bringing them back.

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