Netflix, I love you. I really, really do but--you killed the video store. And as I sit here with a glass of wine and a high-calorie snack, putting on another episode of my latest 'it' show, I can't help but remember how much I loved the video store. First, the mom and pop shop down the street. The one where I rented every slasher film--the good, the bad and the horrible--with forged parental notes. The one where I spent hours searching through movies filled with worlds so different from my own. Okay, maybe not hours because usually the owner would kick us out after about twenty minutes. I loved that place, even the cantankerous owner and his equally grumpy wife.
When I got older, Blockbuster (along with the library) was my favorite place. I could (and did) cruise the aisles for hours picking out my movie. I even joined their 30 movies for 30 days for $30 club. I wrote my final graduate paper on, 'The Role of the Authority Figure in Slasher Films' with the help of that deal.
I remember the feeling of excitement when I actually got my hands on a new movie. Often it would come in while I was browsing and I'd find it in the return pile. I remember the switch from VHS to DVD. I remember the wave of the employees I came to know, the sheer joy of picking my candy as I waited to pay--Chewy Sprees, Swedish Fish or Twizzlers.
I loved the Blockbuster card that I lost at least three times a month. I dreaded late fees, lost movies, and the VHS tape that would get caught in the VCR.
I miss going out to find a movie and a snack. I miss the fluorescent lights and the suggestions-"If you liked that, you'll love this." They were good for this introvert. I miss the movies playing on large televisions while I searched.
I miss the Blockbuster commercials showing families on couches and couples in beds in homes across America. They so obviously enjoyed getting lost in the land of make believe instead of the world of bills and responsibility.
I'm reminded of how important video stores were to my generation and how irrelevant they will be to this one, just as they were to the generation before mine. They didn't have a long run or occupy a prominent space in history. The first professionally managed video store opened in 1977 in Los Angeles. And sure, there are still video stores but they are a dying breed. The video store of my youth closed down years ago. It still hurts me when I go home and drive past the unoccupied space that still holds a piece of my youth. My children will never know the joy or anticipation that I did.
I think about some of the writers and directors who fed their passion and educated themselves in film while they worked behind the counter of a video store: Tarantino, Kevin Williamson and Kevin Smith. Williamson's days as video store clerk had such a profound effect on him that Pacey and Dawson (from Dawon's Creek) worked there. And Randy Meeks from Scream laid out the rules for slasher films in the video store where he worked. (See the clip below for the greatest video store clip ever.)
The end of the video store is simply the evolution of technology. Bigger and better things came along. Ironically, I dreamt of the day when I would be able to call up almost any movie without having to leave my living room. That days is here and for some reason, I miss the old days. I miss the search, I miss the anticipation. I miss it all....
Yes, the days of searching for movies in a store are gone but for me they will always be a part of my GenX childhood.
This is for my friends who remember what life was like before. This is for the movie lovers, the pop culture junkies--my people.