This past month we traveled to Oregon for a family reunion in a beautiful place called Sunriver outside of Bend. My wife’s family has been doing this off and on before I was even part of the family some 28 years ago. When I married my wife, I ventured to Sunriver for many reunions of fun biking, hiking, golfing, and lounging. It has been six years since our last visit and much has changed in those six years, so it was good to reconnect with family in a low stress vacation environment.
During the pre-trip planning, I remembered Bend was the final bastion for the now defunct, bankrupt, parted out company known as BLOCKBUSTER Video. After watching the death, of the video rental stores these past 10 years, my wife and I had to go and show our son what our Friday night rituals entailed. In the video, as we drive to the store, we discuss the memories of renting videos.
Many people say that it was streaming that killed the video rental store or Netflix and the mail in DVDs. I disagree with both. I think it has something to do with mismanagement, a disconnect from the customer base, and the Powers that Be, who would like a cheaper way to distribute media to make more profit. One thing the video rental store created was a destination place and a sense of community. My wife and I got to know the employees, store managers, and even a few owners of the Mom and Pop stores we frequented. We enjoyed walking the aisles looking for the perfect movie to encourage us or inspire us after a hard week at work. My wife and I usually bought a u-bake pizza and enjoyed a movie on our couch. Or, we would prepare a gourmet meal we would purchase at the grocery store, halibut or swordfish steaks, pasta Alfredo and the current veggie at the time. We knew fellow customers by face and said hello; we discussed with strangers about favorite movies while waiting to check out our movies in line and soon they too became acquaintances. We stood in line with real people, with real lives. Today, you may be scrolling through the endless reviews looking for some help with deciding on a video and you may be reading the programmed review of a bot or a paid influencer who receives a dollar per thousand clicks. No sense of community, just manipulation.
At the Last BLOCKBUSTER we felt that sense of community engagement again. We engaged with other families that were also showing their children the experience of BLOCKBUSTER. We discussed with customers about our shared experiences that have been lost in time these past five years. We talked over the t-shirts and other merchandise, browsed the movies sale tables and discussed with other customers all with smiles on our faces enjoying the nostalgia.
As far as the future goes, there will never be a rebirth of BLOCKBUSTER. Unless the rights sell from the current owner Dish Network who have no plans to ever see BLOCKBUSTER achieve its former glory. Where does that leave video rentals? Netflix was seen as the villain to the destruction of the video store, but I think times are changing. As Netflix changes its philosophy from customer “service” to customer “control”, they have begun to lose subscribers in mass. As the company engages in creating programs that ignore ratings guidelines for families and children and traditional shows disappear from their register, more loss subscriptions will follow. It is interesting when executives from these large corporations can’t believe that many people don’t want to buy the trash they are pushing. We left Netflix over two years ago and haven’t looked back. We do not use a streaming service except for the free YouTube and others, but even finding decent content has become a challenge. We found our library to be the best place to find good shows as we are now watching season 3 of the original Magnum series and can complete series because all episodes are available there.
Please feel free to comment and share your memories of the video rental store or if you still have an active one in your area. I must admit my favorite video rental chain was not BLOCKBUSTER, but Hollywood Video. However, our favorite stores to this day will always remain the Mom and Pop’s who opened the store on the corner and ran the local community gathering spot on a Friday night.