A few days ago, Blockbuster Video announced they would be closing the doors at its remaining 300 stores and end it's mail service that is similar to Netflix. Many stern film buffs may have hated its corporate feel, their lack of hard to find titles, small selection of foreign titles, or even the fact they refused to carry NC-17 titles. I, on the other hand, have many fond memories of my local Blockbuster Video. Shockingly enough, I never worked at one. I ended up working at Big 10 Video in Mounds View, MN which was one of those independently owned stores that had the infamous back room. The closing of Blockbuster Video really feels like the final nail in the coffin to the concept of video stores which saddens me. Yes, there are still some small mom and pop stores out there with a great selection, but they are few and far between. I was going to write a little tribute to Blockbuster Video and all of my memories of spending my Friday nights going up and down the stacks as I could never make a selection. After reading my husband's Facebook status the other day, his eloquent words encapsulate what I had been thinking. For the first time on "Paul's Trip to the Movies", I am honored to have Ryan McGuire Grimes as my first guest contributor.
I have conflicting feelings on the news that the final Blockbuster Video stores are closing because I worked at Blockbuster Rosedale (long since closed) for about a year or so in college. My time there was before Netflix even existed, where a family trip to the video store on a Friday or Saturday night was still a thing, and we had lines curling back into the store waiting to check out, especially if a new release was cleared off three tiers of shelves in a matter of a few hours. There was something dorkily exciting about being a part of that.
I’ve been reading several commentaries about Blockbuster’s close, but was most intrigued by one that detailed how the rise of Blockbuster marked the decline of small, local video stores. Personally, I was ecstatic when Blockbuster opened in Cedar Falls because the Stars & Stripes Video on Main Street only carried about three copies of the biggest new releases and our family never made it in time to be one of the proud renters. We'd have to just peruse a bunch of old movies, and I wasn't interested. The odds of watching the newest release were much better when you went to Blockbuster and they had 80 copies.
As I grew older, though, and met actual film buffs (I considered myself one until I met people who actually were), I'd always get, "Oh, you haven't seen that? You need to rent it right now!" and I quickly came to realize that Blockbuster wouldn't be helping me out with that. And, frankly, Amazon was hitting its peak at that time and you could just buy a permanent copy of the movie for super cheap much more often than you could find a Blockbuster location that carried it for rent. (Although it seemed in the early 2000s that there was a Blockbuster on every Minneapolis corner...but I digress...)
So, by the time Netflix hit its stride...well, the writing was really on the wall. Like the sentiment of many who have written about Blockbuster's demise, it really is actually shocking how much longer the remaining Blockbuster locations have stayed open. Which brought back memories of my latest (and now last) experience at Blockbuster.
Paul and I went to the location on Hennepin Avenue in Uptown, which I recently learned is not the only remaining Twin Cities location, but rather one of four. We wanted to see RED 2 and hadn't yet seen the first one and it wasn't available on Netflix streaming, HuluPlus, AmazonPrime, or Xfinity OnDemand. I'm not saying we actually have all of those options in our home (we do, of course, I’m just a bit ashamed to have to admit it), just that I happen to know RED wasn't available through any of them. So, we went to Blockbuster Uptown, the only video store still open anywhere near our house after that sad Hopkins joint down Excelsior Boulevard went belly-up last year. They had RED, which is as happy as this story ends. The store itself was depressing, the employees disheveled, and even though it was a Saturday night, where, in my day, it would have been packed, the uninterested employees seemed almost resentful there were any people in the store at all (it was us and just one other couple that were obviously just bored and wanted to find something to have on in the background while they made out).
I'm not sure what my point is anymore, except that there certainly will be nowhere left to find a Bruce Willis action movie with an impending sequel. At least near our house.
Ooh, look, twenty dollars.