It’s happening: Blockbuster is leaving us. We’ve seen it coming for years now, but it’s hard to believe that this once mega-popular video rental store is now a pathetic has-been, forced to close the last of its floundering retail locations. By January, there will be no more rows of movies, no more quick-drop boxes, no more late fees – just empty blue and yellow buildings that will undoubtedly be terribly transformed into dollar stores, furniture depots and bulk food emporiums.
Blockbuster tried to make things work. Since its debut in 1985, it did its best to keep up with technology and rented everything from video tapes, to VCRs, to video games, to DVDs, to mobile phones and eventually even offered a DVD-by-mail service. But it wasn’t enough. There was just no competing with the likes of Netflix, Red Box and, of course, the Internet.
It’s not hard to understand what happened – the world changed. People no longer want to rent physical movies from a physical store like some kind of animal. People want choice, personalization and low prices instantly, without having to put on real pants to go outside and get it. It’s not you, Blockbuster. It’s us.
Our time with Blockbuster is almost over, but it certainly hasn’t been for nothing. Blockbuster (and video rental stores in general) taught us a lot. We learned important values that, unfortunately, may not survive the technological shift. Here are just a few:
1) Commitment: When a rental could cost up to $6, you really had to commit to it. More than that, you had to believe in it. You read the plot synopsis, consulted with the store clerks and thought about the actors’ track records. If after all of that research you found out the movie was terrible, you took a long hard look in the mirror, swallowed your pride and watched the entire thing in support of your financial decision. You really had to hate a movie not to see it through.
2) Compromise: The price of renting a movie coupled with the fact that you probably only had one piece of technology that would allow you to watch it meant that you and your fellow viewers had to compromise. A visit to Blockbuster involved a little debate team meeting with cries of “You got to choose last time!” “It got bad reviews!” “You know how I feel about Jeremy Piven!” Finally, through sweat, tears and shameless manipulation, promises were made, alliances were formed and a movie was rented.
3) Timeliness: Everything we learned about time management we learned from Blockbuster. Renting a movie meant meticulously planning your weekend around both viewing and returning movies.
4) Patience: If you missed seeing a movie in theaters, you’d have to wait months to catch it on rental. When that fateful day finally came, you’d race over to Blockbuster only to realize that it was sold out. So you’d have to wait some more. Then when you went back to get it, you’d wait some more in the check-out line. Then when you got home, you’d pop it in the VCR and realize some sociopath hadn’t rewound it. So you’d wait some more. Then there were “Coming soon on video & DVD” trailers. So you’d wait some more. We had to learn patience at least ten times a day! Now we can barely stand the ten seconds we have to wait for the next episode of Orange Is The New Black to play on Netflix.
5) Kindness: Those three small words – be kind, rewind – will be completely lost on the next generation, among other things…
6) Respect: Returning movies in a timely fashion was important not only financially, but also socially. You couldn’t just hog a movie because you liked it, you had to be respectful of your fellow renters and share that copy of From Justin to Kelly.
7) Accountability: Blockbuster was great at teaching us that there were consequences to our actions. Returned a movie late? Pay up. Snapped some DVDs? Pay up. Forgot your rewards card? No unlimited rentals for you. Accountability teaches us the importance of making the right choice the next time around. But do you know what Netflix did when it found out people were blatantly abusing the system by sharing passwords? It decided to reward them by offering multiple profiles on the same account at no extra charge. Some say that’s business savvy, I say it’s the beginning of the moral decay of society.
8) Activeness: Oh, so you want to spend your Friday night binge watching some new releases? Marathoning a trilogy? Watching every J-Lo movie every made? Fine, but first you gotta move those legs and book it to the video store. You had to earn that laziness! Now it’s just…
9) Certainty: Blockbuster movies were displayed like this – empty, original movie case in front so you could read about what you were going to rent. For the real thing, you had to reach behind it for that Blockbuster branded case.
Unless you liked surprises, you had to be sure to double check that the real, rental movie matched the fake, display movie or you’d upset a whole bunch of kids who were geared up to watch Matilda.
10) Change: The most important lesson that Blockbuster taught us is that change is constant. We need to embrace change, but we also need to remember how we got there and consider the impact that this change will have. Blockbuster will always have a special place in our hearts and in our wallets, if you still have your membership card. But the thing about Blockbuster that will always stay with me, that I will take to my grave, can be summed up like so – we cannot rewind, we can only fast forward.
Thanks for the memories Blockbuster, you will be missed!
Featured Image , Popcorn Kids via.