One of my fondest memories growing up through my early-to-mid teen years was going to Blockbuster. Stepping into the blue and yellow store, it had that plastic smell from the VHS cases that wafts nostalgic to my nose even now.
For the younger generations who are used to at-your-fingertips streaming, they will never quite know what it was like to physically go to a store where movies awaited on VHS and/or DVD, and the joy of walking around the store looking for something to select, either under the recently released section or other genre sections.
The tangible act of looking at and holding a thing in your hands makes it a more pleasurable experience, I think, than merely using the remote to go up and down and left and right on the screen to select a movie. We still browse today via streaming, but it’s not quite the same. Yes, ostensibly, there’s far more options on streaming than could ever fit inside a physical store, but memories, man! That’s what it’s all about!
I remember driving up to our local blockbuster on Route 4 (one of the main thoroughfares in the area, replete with plenty of fast food junk nearby) with my friend(s) after school or at night because that was the thing to do. If we weren’t playing outside, we were inside watching movies. That’s where my love of movies and horror films in particular was nurtured.
There was also a Blockbuster on the other side of town I liked to go because it was on my way home from my first job as a teenager. The movie theater was also right next to that first job. So, either the movie theater or a store with movies waiting helped to grow my love of movies, too. Interestingly, in my current job in a different county in Ohio, for about the first year or so I commuted there, there was still a Blockbuster sign as one drove down the main thoroughfare; the building itself was a Popeyes Chicken restaurant, though. As usual, I waited too long to do a nostalgic story on it and they replaced it with a typical billboard space.
In hindsight, we were quite funny as teenagers, too, my one friend and I. Because we were both so incredibly shy and socially awkward that neither of us wanted to be the one to ask the Blockbuster worker if they had a movie in stock. Imagine that, by the way, having to ask another human being if there is a movie available rather than using the “search” feature nowadays. Anyhow, my friend, since he had his license and drove us, always made me do it. Fair trade-off, though.
I bring all of this up because I commute still down Route 4 on my way from home to work and back again. Every time, I pass the old building that used to be the Blockbuster video store. I’d recognize the shape of that building from anywhere; it hasn’t left my memory.
I’m not sure exactly when that building stopped housing movies and memories, but nowadays, it’s 2nd Chance Resale. No knock on those peeps, who are there to help people with their “wardrobe blah’s,” as they say on their website, but it doesn’t compare to first chance movie magic!
One of my favorite things about physically going to Blockbuster, and which I still try to replicate in the age of streaming, is finding a hidden gem. I would be browsing, and often make a beeline for the horror section (which I swear was never big enough!), hoping to select a movie I’d never heard of before, much less seen, only for it to turn out to be a hidden gem of sorts. I like to think I had an eye for picking them! It helps that I’m pretty open-minded about such things. I dig a good, fun B-level horror flick.
And of course, the fun of going to Blockbuster was also in grabbing some drinks or candy while you waited in the aisle.
I miss those days, mostly for what’s behind the Blockbuster nostalgia: The friendships made along the way and sort of lost as we grew older. Blockbuster wasn’t the only thing to go bankrupt and not adapt to the times. That’s a good metaphor for friendships, too.
And for the record, I established weird brand loyalty, so I was never a Hollywood Video store guy! I stuck to Blockbuster, thank you very much, and only begrudgingly switched to Netflix once the writing was on the wall. I started with Netflix back in the caveman days when I still received DVDs in the mail. Can you imagine? Supposedly a small subset of users still do that.
Do you have any Blockbuster memories?