Remembering The Video Store…

brent johnson looks at the decline of the video store, once a staple in the pop culture lives of america

I was driving along Route 1 in South Brunswick, N.J., recently when I noticed something disturbing: a sign on the window of Blockbuster that read, “Store Closing.”

Of course, I knew this was coming. I’ve seen Red Box machines sprout at convenience stores and supermarkets. I’ve seen Hollywood Video — a great chain that carried a lot of the older, rarer movies Blockbuster didn’t — die out all over. But, perhaps foolishly, I kept thinking: Blockbuster will survive.

I’m sad thinking it might not.

My friends have given me some guff for hating new things. They joke that I’ve rallied against Blu-Ray and 3-D. But I don’t hate change. I love the iPod — it makes my life much, much easier. I love digital
cable — it’s a wonder to scroll through channels with 30 movies to pick from. I don’t like Blu-Ray and 3-D because I think they’re excessive and unnecessary.

But to me, the death of video rental stores is a bigger problem altogether. It another sign of the impending death of pop-culture romanticism.

I understand the convenience of the $1 Red Box rentals. I know it’s cool and refreshing to be able to click on your computer and have movies mailed to you via Netflix. But there’s something romantic about having nothing to do on a Friday night and driving off to Blockbuster to browse the aisles and pick out a movie to entertain you and your family, your date, your friends. It’s exciting to check off the films you might want to see, narrowing your picks down. You have far fewer choices with Red Box and you have to wait for Netflix.

By disregarding CDs and embracing only MP3s aren’t we killing off the romantic ideal that an album is a piece of art — with a specifically designed cover and tracklisting? By ignoring newspapers and only reading internet news, aren’t will murdering the romantic ideal of getting in-depth news from a tried-and-true broadsheet? Isn’t there room in the world for both romanticism and convenience?

I love that we live in a world where we can do everything from the comfort of a laptop. But I hope we don’t kill off romanticism for the sake of convenience.

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