To Blockbuster and Back

To Blockbuster and Back

My last post was about my nostalgia for previous forms of the Internet. It’s ironic that the Internet’s current configuration (whereby I use it to watch television) is such a vehicle for my nostalgia.

I’ve talked about reruns and the freedom to choose them on streaming services, but I haven’t shared as much about the streaming platforms, themselves. In 2020, they’re commonplace. Most people know what Netflix is, even if they primarily use cable. I watched a fascinating documentary about Netflix called Netflix vs. the World. Ironically, it’s on Amazon Prime. The film delves into how Netflix became the streaming empire it is today. Short answer: it beat out Blockbuster in the video rental contest.

via Cnet

Ah, Blockbuster. The big blue video rental store with all my favorite films and overpriced candy and popcorn. There’s only one of these stores left, and I would love to see it if I’m ever in Oregon. The Florida Blockbuster I went to growing up served its purpose–whatever family film or Mary-Kate and Ashley movie or Barney video I had a hankering for was most likely on the shelves somewhere. We owned a fair amount of new and secondhand kids’ videos at my house, but it was still fun to rent something different once in awhile.

“My Blockbuster” was closed by 2010, but I don’t remember renting much there past middle school (2005-2008). I wonder what movie I got on my last ever visit to Blockbuster…I have no memory of that trip whatsoever. We also rented from competitor Hollywood Video every now and then.

I love seeing nostalgic memes about Blockbuster, or pictures of Walt Disney Classics collections in their bulky VHS sleeves with the caption, “The Original Disney+.” There were choices back then, but it seems that there are even more choices now.

via Tumblr

I’d say I fire up at least one streaming service almost every day. Whether it’s to watch something and relax or to fact-check something for my research, I try to take advantage of all the offerings. I’ll admit that I’ve watched far fewer animated classics on Disney+ than I have old Disney Channel shows or DCOMs. I watch way more documentaries and favorite sitcoms on the other streaming services than I do new shows, too.

As nostalgic as I am for Blockbuster, I also feel somewhat lazy about my entertainment options. I’m not alone in thinking that it’s kind of nice to watch something without driving to a store to get it. That said, I fully support the existing rental stores out there, like the cool one I visited while I lived in Connecticut (Best Video Film & Cultural Center). If you haven’t been to one of these stores in the last ten years, it’s a fun experience that might just offer you something you couldn’t find on your streaming platforms.

I sigh as I inwardly weigh the pros and cons of living in a thriving Blockbuster world versus living in an ultra-convenient streaming world. It’s a weird thing to think about. I don’t have cable. I have a small collection of DVDs, but I don’t watch them all that often. A saturated streaming market steps in to fill the void of both cable and home video for me.

via Vox

I know there are some bigger questions here. Just as it is expensive to theoretically rent videos every week and pay for cable, streaming can be cost-prohibitive as sitcoms spread themselves across Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and more…as family movies fill the halls of Disney+ and leave other services lacking them… We can’t go back to Blockbuster. But if you could, would you want to?

It’s interesting to talk about streaming because it is always evolving. The concept is accessible, but I fear it will become less so. The nostalgia at our fingertips is enthralling, but I know I take it for granted too often. I’m grateful that so many people are able to watch so many things, but I can’t help but notice what is missing. On that note, my next post will cover several shows that people my age watched as preschoolers. With the exception of old YouTube videos, some of these are pretty hard to find! See you then. 🙂

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