blockbuster video stores

R.I.P. Blockbuster, Almost

One. That’s how many Blockbuster video stores exist on the planet. Recently, there were three. Two in Alaska, and one in Bend, Oregon. The Oregon store is the last man standing. 

Rewind to 2004 (see what I did there), Blockbuster boasted 9000 stores across America. Another fun fact: Blockbuster could’ve bought Netflix. That might have been a game changer for the now almost defunct video store chain.

Why does this matter? 

In the grand scheme of world history and spiritual realities the closing of Blockbuster is not high on the list. No one will talk about the first man on the moon and the new release section at a video store in the same breath. 

Few will place the discovery of gravity and the astronomical late fees Blockbuster charged when the family watched Forrest Gump nineteen times before returning in the same category. 

But with streaming services putting Blockbuster in the grave I wonder if we’re losing something. Maybe not even streaming services in specific, but losing something in general.

Let me try to explain.

My oldest son visited a Blockbuster with me in 2009, he doesn’t remember. He’s reared on Netflix, Redbox, and Amazon Prime videos. 

My son knows nothing of the excitement when the family had a movie night. Strolling the hundreds and hundreds of movies and video games shouting: pick me, pick me.

 I grew up across the street from a local video store called Olympic Video. A quick climb over the back fence, dodge two lanes of traffic, and I could browse the latest releases and Nintendo games in less than three minutes. 

My kid’s will never know the feeling of finding a new video game in your local store. The euphoria of getting a chance to play the game someone had rented out for eight weeks straight.  

These spoiled kid’s will never know how their dad used an epic strategy to ensure higher chances of nabbing new games. How did I do it? Glad you asked. 

When I knew a trip to the video store was coming soon. I’d rush home from school in the afternoon, hop the fence, find the game in the store, and hide it for later that evening. Usually behind a movie no one would rent. 

Hours later when the man with cash, Dad, would take me to the store, boom, a new video game waiting behind Weird Science or Nerds 2. Brilliant plan if you ask me. 

Now the kids click a button and their movie dreams come to life. Lame. No sacrifice, effort, and planning. These kid’s have it so good.

Before I sound like an old curmudgeon telling kids to get off the lawn. I have a point. Streaming services and instant everything have made modern life easier. Technology makes communication more efficient and saves time for more important things, like relationships. I get it. 

But my fear is when we lose the human element and things become too easy. Something dies. 

My home includes Friday Night Pizza and Movie Night. We’ve done this for eleven years and rarely miss a one. This tradition has become a sacred ritual in our home. A time once a week where the entire family is in the same room, eating junk food, laughing, resting, and of course, fighting over what movie to watch. 

This rhythm is essential for our family pace and health. 

But what do we lose when our family doesn’t hop in the car, fight over what movie to watch, and chat with the video store clerk with the creepy mustache, and return the video late, without rewinding?

When things are too easy and too instant what do we lose?

I don’t know. 

I talked with a friend about these things today. He’s an older man and can’t believe how fast things are moving. He wonders if technology will neuter face-to-face connection and what the ramifications might be.

Great questions. I don't know.

When at the click of a button I can watch the latest documentary or action adventure film. When I can hit the Buy It Now button and have a new book on my porch tomorrow. Is something lost?

What about going down to the bookstore and talking to humans and browsing the aisles? What if that’s how it’s supposed to be?

Does the speed of technology and the ease of everything make us lazy with God and people?

Do we expect everything to work this way?

We can’t change the present. We don’t know the future. And can’t jump into a time machine and change the past.

But people are made in God’s image and came from the dust. I wonder if the more we stay tethered to God, one another, and make space for living and breathing relationships the better. 

Are we choosing the easy and the path of least resistance assuming it will lead to the joy our souls seek?

Sadly, Blockbuster is not an option for roaming her aisles any longer. Loading the family into the minivan and arguing over a new release or a tried-and-true film a thing of the past.
But could we find other ways to slow down and enjoy the effort it takes to have depth in our relationships? 

Could we take the long way home just to experience a different part of town? How about going to a store, buying a DVD, and watching it at home with the family?

Maybe instead of pizza being delivered, we make our own. 

I don’t know, just thinking out loud. 

I have to go. Some kid’s are on my lawn, and I need to binge shows on Netflix.