Kurland On Film Editorials: The Death Of The Video Store

By Scott Kurland

I’m as happy as the next person that streams netflix and hulu TV shows and films. I also understand there’s a vending machine passing itself off as rental store....you know redbox. After binge watching all 13 episodes of “Marvel’s Daredevil” (Which is totally amazing. Watch it), I got to thinking that we live in such a different age than when I grew up. I realize how old I sound saying that, but it’s true. When I think really hard about it, I grew up in the 90s, I graduated high school in 2005, and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2009. What does this all have in common? Blockbuster video was still relevant and reigning supreme.

Blockbuster video was also at least 50% of my childhood and it also accounts for a good chunk of my nostalgia. The same can be said for SunCoast Video and Hollywood Video, but not Thunder video....they were all about trash, and I’m not talking about porn. Thunder video had five copies of “Monkey Trouble” and six copies of “Lighting Jack”, feh. Don’t even get me started on the wall dedicated to “EDTV”, “Mr. Wrong”, and “Love Letter”. We get it Thunder video, Ellen had a terrible film career. Stop reminding us. She makes us laugh everyday.

Blockbuster was king in my eyes and it’s sad to think that most children growing up today won’t get to live in the age of VHS. Trust me, I’m pro digital and Blu-Ray; but oh man, getting out of school on a Friday and being rewarded with a trip to Blockbuster was a treat. Granted, I never got to rent my first choice and always settled for “A League Of Their Own”, but it was worth it. Also  I learned one more thing... “MARLA HOOCH, WHAT A HITTER!”As I said before, Blockbuster was a treat. A privilege that had to be earned. Homework done? Passed a test? Babysitter coming over? I got to go to Blockbuster. Home sick from school? Dad went to Blockbuster. And when dad went to Blockbuster, that’s when my cinematic education began. “Harold & Maude”, “Annie Hall”, and “The Great Race” were movies I watched on sick days. They also were a gateway drug into the world of art house flicks.

Kids today have redbox, OnDemand, and iTunes. They all lack substance. None of these will trigger an emotional response the way Blockbuster did. You wont think back to your childhood and say, “I remember when I sat on my couch and ordered ‘Paul Blart Mall Cop 2’, and it changed my life”. Blockbuster was an excuse to rent bad movies, but it was ok because they were doing a promotion with that bad movie. I rented “Hook” and got a cup with it, or “Dunston Checks In” and received a free thing of microwave popcorn. Yes, the movie was a bad monkey film, but I didn’t care. I had free popcorn. The experience alone made up for the bad viewing choice.

I loved growing up in the 90s. I loved watching movies in the 90s. But what will always stick with me is that blue and yellow sign. I use to have my mom drive by the store just to see the new movie poster of “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead” and “Drop Dead Fred”. Then we’d rent them and know what I did next? I went back to Blockbuster and rented a good movie like “Duck Soup” because those two other films were awful. If it wasn’t for Blockbuster, I would have never been introduced to the genius of british comedy. Blockbuster video had all the Monty Python films, “A Fish Called Wanda”, and a sleeper Irish film called “The Commitments”. All of those mentioned films were devoured in the course of one long weekend when I told my mom I was watching “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey”. 

To this day, I think back with fond memories about Blockbuster Video. It was an over-priced video store that taught me to love movies and also allowed me to bond with my family on a Friday or Saturday night. Kids today won’t know what it means to put on their fall coats, drive the two miles to Westford, and elbow another 8 year old for the last copy of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”and “Hocus Pocus”. Blockbuster went on to that great video store in the sky, and it will be missed. For thirty-one magnificent years it was unstoppable...until it stopped.
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