For Millennials, and probably their parents as well, renting movies was a fairly crucial piece of weekend entertainment: Strolling past shelf after shelf of “New Releases!” and “Classics” and “Disney” waiting for the brightest cover to catch your eye, reading the back synopsis, and begging to rent more than one. Finding R-rated things we shouldn’t. Basing our sleepovers and our collective cultural knowledge on the things committed to screen we watched, knowing that we couldn’t simply switch to something else at a moment’s notice.
This is now just a distant memory – something akin to cave paintings for the youth of today. Even the word “video” has become more or less obsolete; disappeared into the dog-eat-dog landscape of digital media.
There is little comfort in the notion that, sooner rather than later, what we perceive now as the ubiquitous way to ingest our media – 2-hour movies and 8-second clips alike – will meet the same fate.
But one Blockbuster remains
But perhaps there is some comfort that, in this age of information and stored memory, nothing ever truly disappears. It may not be relevant anymore; it may not be part of the cultural conversation, lost in the “that’s so old!” death throes of modernity, but we can still revisit these things. No music is lost to us. No movies or games.
And, sometimes, we get more than that.
In a galaxy far, far away known as Bend, Oregon, one Blockbuster remains in operation. Walking through the doors is like stepping into a time capsule that sends you back to 2001 (A Space Odyssey), or on a Journey to the Center of the Earth.
And, as you can see in the video created by The Verge above, it’s a magical experience. There’s nothing quite like that which as come before – we have an obsession with the things that led to where we are today. Nostalgia is a sweet mistress, as are the sights and sounds that get us there. But there is also something to be said about the experience of human-to-human contact – how much more gratifying it is to choose movies by hand, with the recommendations and conversations of store employees to back you up, than the cold and impersonal experience of Netflix’s recommendation algorithm.
It’s the reason (some) boutique stores are still thriving in the age of Amazon, and why we can still count on the helpful nature of customer service representatives, and still often prefer them, in a time when the things being sold are changing with ever-increasing speed.
We certainly don’t predict a return of Blockbuster rental stores – or of physical videos/DVDs in general. And Blockbuster as a corporation did its fair share of damage to the mom and pop video rental stores it replaced in cities and towns all across the country. But the philosophy is sound – that this experience is a superior one to just about any we have online – and shouldn’t be ignored.