A moment of silence, please — or, if you’re of a religious bent, a prayer, perhaps — for Blockbuster. It’s dead, but for those of a certain age at least, it won’t be forgotten.
The official obituary, in the cold language of the business world, goes something like this: Dish Network, which bought the bankrupt video rental business in 2010, announced Tuesday that it will close the remaining 300 Blockbuster stores.
But that doesn’t begin to tell the story. Oh no. Modern kids being raised on Netflix and on-demand have no idea what they’ve missed.
Someday, today’s teenagers will tell their grandchildren magical tales of visiting the store with the big blue and yellow sign, of how it was crammed with videotapes (later DVDs); of how they would stand in the aisles, stamping their little feet, begging and pleading with their parents to let them rent “Final Destination” or “American Pie” or “Porky’s” (“But Billy’s parents let him see it!”) while mom and dad offered up “The Little Mermaid” or “Beauty and the Beast” or, horrors, “The Sound of Music.” (“You’ll love it.” “What’s it about?” “Why, it’s a lighthearted musical about escaping from the Nazis.” “No, Mom, please, no!”)
Having finally chosen a movie, or three or four, you then had to run the gantlet of candy, soda, cheap, useless toys and used movies and/or video games while standing in line to check out. That’s right: Standing in line. A long line. Especially on holiday weekends. When all the good stuff had already been rented.
Once you made it to the counter, you were “helped” by sad-sack minimum-wage workers, all of whom had that look in their eyes like “God, my folks were so right, I shouldn’t have smoked so much pot; I should’ve studied harder in high school and gone to college instead of ending up in a dead-end job like this,” while you fumbled for that stupid little plastic card that got you a “free” movie for every five rentals (or was it 10?), except on Tuesdays, when everything was half-price, or Wednesdays, when you could get a Coke and popcorn for only $1.99 more.
And then came the magic of “OK, when are these due back again?”
Like most men, though, I’ll remember the many evenings spent strolling those dirty-carpeted aisles, surrounded by other woebegone husbands, all dispatched there by their gentle wives with a simple command: “Get something we’ll both like.”
The Gordian knot was child’s play compared with that instruction. Come home with the wrong movie — “Kelly’s Heroes,” “The Dirty Dozen” or anything with the name “Emmanuel” in it — and, well, waterboarding doesn’t seem that bad, really. The alternative — “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” perhaps, or anything with Brad Pitt or George Clooney (except the good ones, like “Ocean’s Eleven”) — meant an evening of her sniffing while you wondered who was winning the Alabama-Auburn game on Channel 2.
It’s all just a dream now. No more rushing down late at night, trying to return a movie to beat the late fees. No more “Have you seen the kids?” “I thought they were with you!” “How can I pick out a movie and watch the kids?!” “Oh, I don’t care, get anything!” “No, not that; why would you think I’d watch that!”
I tell ya, Netflix and Redbox may have movies, but they’ll never be Blockbusters.
So long, big yellow and blue store, and thanks for the memories.