As you no doubt have heard, Blockbuster video is calling it quits. There is no business model to support bricks-and-mortar stores that supply movie rentals. The delivery systems for media consumption have changed so radically over the last decade, and Blockbuster has failed to keep up.
The reasons for its demise are obvious. But still, it’s remarkable that it’s gone. Blockbuster was once so ubiquitous in America. It was the 800 pound gorilla gobbling up all the mom and pop rental stores around the country. It was unstoppable. Until it got stopped. And now it is no more. There has to be some kind of a life-lesson here—certainly a sermon illustration (but I digress).
In any case, I ran across a “eulogy” to Blockbuster today that fascinated me. It highlights the communal experience that Blockbuster once provided:
We shopped in video rental stores not just for the movie experience, but for the experience of the search. There was a sort of sense of community to the act itself. And in this way, there was really a connecting thread between the shared communal experience of seeing movies in a theater, and the era of the video rental store. Just as theaters remain our temples for experiencing first-run films together as spectacle, as shared events, the video store was our place of worship for a different kind of movie experience together. We stopped by, we searched, we discussed, we chose, and we had only a limited window to watch the movie before it was time to make the trip back to the store and worship again.
Nobody enhanced that communal movie-shopping experience like Blockbuster. People like to dismiss chain establishments for their sameness, but the truth is that simple sameness is the appeal. It replicates the sense of the communal feeling even when you’re far from your own real community. This is important for our rituals, after all, and I suspect we appreciate the deception. Why resent Blockbuster for providing that sense of comforting familiarity to our movie ritual, when it’s a trick we want played on us, because it enhances the ritual experience?
I recognize what this writer is talking about. All of it is true. Part of the movie-watching experience was the visit to the store. What’s fascinating to me is how silently this familiar ritual both entered and left our lives. Everyone who’s old enough can remember the experience of regularly visiting a video store. But can anyone remember the last visit they made? Probably not. It was there, and then it was gone. And we hardly even noticed until our patronage of such stores was so small in the rearview mirror that we couldn’t even see it anymore.
It appears to be gone for good now. And no revamped business model can change that. So long Blockbuster.