A eulogy for Blockbuster


The remembrance of entertainment retailers

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published by the Other Press. Nov. 2013

Entertainment. What does the word even mean to us now? It seems like we have endless amounts of it everywhere we look. The idea of rental is now so preposterous and ancient that many consider it laughable. But it was only about two years ago that the iconic entertainment rental store, Blockbuster, vacated Canada.

Although many transitioned to digital methods of enjoying movies, TV shows, and video games at the initial phase of the revolution, a fair number of customers relied not only on the movies but the complete Blockbuster experience for nightly entertainment. Now it’s official: the store will become a relic of North America. Blockbuster announced earlier this month that it would be shutting down the remaining 300 stores in the US. Cut to credits. The Blockbuster story has its ending. It was inevitable, but it’s a tragedy for movie lovers.

Okay, so I’m being a bit dramatic, but think about the alternative; consider how we approach our entertainment today. Although my life is quite unique, I’m sure my process of selecting something to watch is not so different from yours. I come home from an exhausting day at work or school, sit down on my computer chair, couch, or bed, and log onto the Internet. If I have a movie or TV show in mind, great, I’ll seek it out as fast as I can via an online streaming website or a peer-to-peer media sharing site, such as BitTorrent.

But if I’m feeling symptoms of indecisiveness, which occurs more frequently than I want, I end up sitting at my computer scrolling through a list of movies, trapped in some sort of horrible movie poster vortex. I consult ratings and critic reviews, but that’s never enjoyable. I end up flustered and far from entertained. I’ll usually just surrender and end up on YouTube, or watching the news and sports highlights, or simply selecting something random, watching halfway through, getting bored, and then going to be bed early.

Rarely do I feel invested in the movies I choose. I can just stop watching whenever I want to and not feel any regret because it didn’t cost me anything. Sure, that might not be a bad thing, because believe it or not there are a lot of shitty movies and TV shows out there. But committing to something helps viewers establish a relationship with the entertainment, like wearing a shirt that you bought for a special occasion. You’ll remember going to the store, picking it out, trying it on, and paying for it. That little magical spark is lost in the digital age. Downloading and streaming movies and TV shows is so instantaneous and ephemeral that we shrug our shoulders and just don’t care.

In the end, technology will always win. That’s just the way the world works. But I believe we’ve lost a bit of our culture with the extinction of Blockbuster and other physical entertainment outlets. Although I was never a loyal customer, I feel we still need a centralized location for home entertainment outside of our living rooms. We need a place to browse, select, and talk about movies. Then we return home with the thrill of having a completed journey.

I’m going to miss video stores. It’s a shame the next generation will not be able to appreciate the pleasures of walking down the many aisles, reminiscing about old films with others, and slipping the DVDs through the little slot at night hoping they don’t charge you an overdue fee. Yes, I’m going to miss video stores. Cue soft music and slowly fade to black.

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