Over the last couple years I have had (and largely taken for granted) the privilege of having one of the few remaining “Blockbuster Video” stores. Right down the street. Of course in my complete and utter laziness I almost never used it, even though I knew I should support the establishment. Instead, I stopped at Redbox when I had to go to the store, or when I had to fill up on a tank of gas, or I would use Netflix, or, if I was feeling even more pathetically lazy, I would resort to more unsavory means like bit-torrent to watch a movie (I would only slightly redeem myself when I guiltily deleted the movies… after watching them of course)
Of course, on some level, I always knew that I was helping to contribute to Blockbuster’s untimely demise. This week signals the final week of the video chain’s existence, and while I realize that there probably was nothing I could’ve done to save the store that was such a big part of my life growing up, it doesn’t make it any less depressing to know that as Blockbuster dies, so does the video rental industry as we know it. Oh, sure, we can still rent movies online, or through Redbox, but you and I know that it just isn’t the same this way.
It’s not just because I have nostalgia for video stores that I feel depressed, but it is also for all the other implications. The most important of these changes is the slow but inevitable shift to digital storage for purchased movies. I’m not talking about subscription services like Netflix. I’m specifically talking about how more and more people seem to be perfectly okay with buying movies on Itunes, Amazon, Xbox live, Playstation Network, etc. and storing them on “the cloud” or on their devices, and not actually holding their own copies. As with Netflix, this is another depressing example of how lazy people have become (“I don’t want to have to get up to put the movie in the player.” “Hey, since you’re up, could you grab the remote that is literally two feet away from me so I don’t have to move?” Or ,”Crap… can’t find the remote at all… Guess I’ll call my neighbor to see if he’ll come over and find it for me”)
Even more than my sorrow for the loss of the rental industry as I knew it is my fear that the “hard-copy” will also one day give way completely to online/digital storage for all media. Maybe I shouldn’t be so worried. It has practically already happened with music. Sure, stores still sell CD’s, but who doesn’t buy an album and then immediately rip it to Itunes so they can bury the disc in the back of their closet with their collection. We all live with that. As long as there’s still that hard-copy back up somewhere.
And that’s what it boils down to for me. I can’t buy digital copies of things. Because it feels like I haven’t actually bought anything. Movies are like books to me. There’s something strangely satisfying about adding a new movie to the shelf and admiring your impressive collection (the difference between my books and my movies is of course that I actually watch my movies. But I do admire my collection of books)
The hard-copy is also like my “movie insurance,” in case my hard drive fries, or Hollywood forbid the entire cloud up and crashes and all our cyberspace stored movies disappear forever. To that end, I did go to Blockbuster one last time to buy up some of their reduced price inventory, which got me several hard copies of DVD’s and Blu-Rays, and gave me one last opportunity to say goodbye to the chain I loved. I may make one more trip just to bid them one more farewell, as I see the pitiful site that is the almost empty, once proud rental giant.
For today, I’ll try not to worry too much about Blu-Rays becoming a thing of the past. Today is a day to lament the end of Blockbuster. And as we look back on all the fun we had browsing its beloved shelves, I hope that not too many tears will be shed as we all see another wonderful industry fall prey to the changing times.