The inevitable demise of Blockbuster
It was bound to happen eventually. The local Blockbuster store, a cornerstone in my film education, is finally closing its doors. My source of foreign and independent movies, documentaries and cheap previously-viewed DVDs will soon be gone.
Blockbuster is where I discovered the world of cinema. My membership card bears the date 6/28/99 but as far back as high school I was renting movies through McCrea, classics like “Taxi Driver”, “Casablanca”, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Godfather Saga” (parts I and II edited together in chronological order … it’s still not available on DVD, dammit), and the works of Bergman, Fellini, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Kurosawa and Kubrick.
Back in the nineties there were Stars & Stripes video, with their plethora of cheap 80s horror films and around-the-corner “adults only” section; Video Jim’s, the mom & pop store that carried “The Evil Dead” on VHS; and the local Hy-Vee, with a fledgling selection of new releases.
Then Blockbuster came to town, the Facebook of the video rental industry – rich, popular and offering the largest selection imaginable. Stars & Stripes and Hy-Vee couldn’t compete. Mr. Movies on Waterloo Rd persevered into the early 2000s but their Samurai films and 49-cent Tuesday special couldn’t save them forever. Video Jim’s held out quite admirably, isolated out there on 1st St, but they caved a couple years ago, at the same time Hollywood Video did out at Crossroads, stricken by the double whammy of Netflix and Redbox. And now that double whammy has finally claimed the king of the hill.
McCrea once told me that he and I were two of the ten most frequent renters at the local Blockbuster chain. Given how often I was there in high school and college, I can believe it. In the early part of 2005, during a bout of unemployment, I took advantage of their all-you-can-rent offer — three movies out at a time for $20 per month – and over 28 days I somehow managed to check out and watch 152 films (plus four others from a friend).
In recent years I’ve been able to build a solid collection of films thanks to their 3-for-$20 deals on previously viewed DVDs. Sometimes 4-for-$20 when inventory builds up. On Wednesday I stopped by and picked up copies of “Gran Torino” and “The Ghost Writer”. I went back after work today and the place had been picked clean, like meat off a carcass. The foreign and independent sections were nearly empty. Thankfully, the store’s only copy of “Man on Wire” was still available. I got that and “The American” for $10.
The only video rental place still open is Family Video, less than a mile from the Mandalay. Their selection is alright but they lack the smaller titles Blockbuster could always be depended on to carry. I am seriously bummed by this development. I haven’t been this upset since Little Italy closed. But maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. I suppose it’s finally time to give Netflix a try. I hear they have a streaming-only plan now. Who knows, if their selection is any good, I may never leave the apartment.