Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Slime From Your Video

At this point in my life, as a participating American, you might think that I would be rooting for the success of all U.S. businesses. I would like to believe it's me that is putting the "us" back into U.S. Not so with Blockbuster Video. As I have written here many times, my career as a video store manager was cut short by the ubiquitous appearance, seemingly overnight, of this rental chain on every available parcel of land across this great land of ours. There was a time when you could make your way across a city by stopping first at a Blockbuster, then at a Starbucks, then repeat the pattern until you hit the outskirts of town. The "superstore" that plopped down in the middle of Boulder in those latter years of the twentieth century put a nice office furniture sized hole in my dreams to live out my days renting "Top Gun" to the masses and answering the musical question: "What'snewthat'sgoodthat'sinthatIhaven'tseen?"
In the next few weeks, Blockbuster will close hundreds of stores, and thousands of employees will lose their jobs. Now that companies like Netflix have all but eliminated the need for that periodically arduous trip to the video store, the need for each block to have a buster has diminished. Soon there will be only five hundred of these relics left. Dish Network, which would much rather have you push a button in your living room to rent your family's weekend entertainment, bought the lumbering giant back in 2010, after it went into bankruptcy. The fact that it has taken another two years for the axe to fall on the rest of the brick and mortar establishments speaks more to nostalgia than to a solid business plan.
In the meantime, Video Station, the independent store that served as our main non-chain competition for all those years, continues to live on in Boulder. Though they will be moving to smaller digs on the outskirts of town, they have outlasted the chains, and maintain a selection that exceeds anything offered by streaming services, with a knowledgeable staff that will most likely feel the downsizing pinch with the change in location. I will shed no tears for the corporation that once diminished my dreams, but I do feel bad for all those blue polo-shirt-wearing drones who will now have to look for work at Best Buy. The Blockbuster is dead, long live the Video Station.

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