Before Netflix came along and, you know, ruined it
When I think of being a kid back in the late 90s, I think of things like Velcro shoes and matching Reebok tracksuits. But I also think of things like VCR and the beloved Blockbuster Video stores. Yeah, that's right. That really did happen. And what a beautiful time that was. You know, before the whole digital era came marching along and destroyed it all that is. That's sort of when we all became these fat lazy bastards who can't so much as pick up a remote without sighing in disbelief.
If you're under 15, then you probably wouldn’t have had the privilege of experiencing ‘the Blockbuster run’ with the parents. So, Blockbuster, for those who don’t remember, was basically a store that you could rent and purchase films, games, and boxsets from. Seems pretty simple, right? Well, that's because it was. But it was the simplicity that made it a pivotal part of our childhood Friday nights, of course.
Sound like something we have in today’s generation? Netflix, for example? Well, that is exactly why Blockbuster hit the rocks back in 2013 and pretty much went bankrupt. Thanks to the wonderful world of virtual catalogues and the world of entertainment in the palms of our hands, stores like Blockbuster had little choice but to dive headfirst into a competitive market where they held the losing hand.
On demand TV series and movies suddenly overpowered our generation and pretty much replaced the entire damn system. Spotify replaced CDs, just like Netflix replaced DVDs. And if you visited a friend post-Blockbuster era you'd be amazed if a physical disc even found its way onto a bookshelf at all. Almost like they were these supernatural objects that dazzled us with such mysterious rainbow rays and smudgy fingerprint patterns.
Blockbuster had taken a sudden smack to the face, and soon enough their little old franchise began to plummet into a very, very dark abyss. The likes of Netflix came storming along with services that Blockbuster just couldn't deliver, and so their fighting chance soon lopsided beneath the almighty power that was the up and coming world of streaming media. And it was because of that, that Blockbuster was sadly destroyed in one fell swoop.
It makes sense in a way, though. I mean, why get off our asses and actually drive to a store when we could just pick up the remote and browse a whole library in seconds? Netflix has everything we could want and more. And actually, it's a whole lot cheaper than Blockbuster ever was, too. So, I guess it was only a matter of time until the iconic chain went under in a heartbreaking fall, really.
Maybe it was for the greater good. You know, banishing Blockbuster in order to make way for the superior race. Because, sadly, physical media isn't really a trending thing these days. What with the likes of Playstation releasing PSNow for digital games, Amazon Prime with their world class shows online, and of course Netflix, with their endless cycle of original movies and specials. It's because of those streaming platforms that nobody really has time for physical copies anymore. But you know what? I BLOODY MISS IT. And I know you do too.
That’s right, I miss getting off my arse and walking my tiny feet across town. I miss the swelling in my ankles as I plodded away from home with a mouth frothing for a bag of Blockbuster's own-branded popcorn. I miss the extortionate deals for movies and games. I miss the monotone staff who repeated the same mundane monologue every time I walked through the door. I miss the scent, the eerily quiet ambience, the layout of the shelves—everything. I miss Blockbuster, now more than ever.
Back when I was about 12, the nearest Blockbuster to me was just shy of two miles from my house. And on a good day I could probably walk it in about forty minutes or so.
If I had the money and a vague picture in my head of what I was going to buy, then I’d be over there like a shot. With a pocketful of pennies and a tickle in my spine, I'd merrily skip along the memorable route like it was Christmas bloody Eve.
I recall so many Saturday mornings strolling down to Blockbuster with a bit of cash in one hand and my fingers crossed on the other. With those, I'd prey that a cheeky deal would be waiting for me when I finally burst through the doors the second they opened to the public.
They occasionally held a 4 for £20 deal on video games. And that, to me, was like bloody heaven. Because if I had the money, then I would literally be pouncing from corner to corner in excitement whilst flicking through every case in search for gold.
I'd bag myself some incredible titles, and then I'd dart back home with the widest smile on my face. And the second I shot through the door I'd be up to my room and digging into the game manuals with bulging eyes, waiting for the disc to spin and the game to boot up for the very first time.
But, you know, these days, I can just click the download button and Google the backstory to a game in ten seconds flat. And, I mean, where's the joy in that? Seems almost pathetic, to be honest. And I really do miss the times where I'd be able to actually build up my excitement and physically work for something as oppose to being offered it with minimal effort. Something about that doesn't seem quite right.
I dread the day where I have to sit down with my daughter and give her the ‘back in my day’ speech. Because when I really think about it, explaining Blockbuster in today’s world really does sound incredibly dire.
“Back in my day we used to rent our videos from a Blockbuster Video store!”
“Shut it Dad, you old bastard!” My daughter would say as she sits there with her VR headset glued to her face and a holographic remote projecting from her wrist.
I’ll tell her these stories, and she’ll most likely laugh. But, you know, that’s life. Technology is always pushing forward and I fear the day where it pretty much controls us entirely. You know, as if it hasn't already.
Blockbuster was, and always will be, a golden memory for us 90s kids and beyond. And I can only shed a tear for today’s generation who will never get to experience those beautiful nights fuelled from expensive popcorn and arguments over who got to choose the pic n mix.
Blockbuster was a damn fine place. And I, as well as thousands of others, had the honour of enjoying it before it went kaput. Technology moves on regardless, and the likes of Blockbuster fades proudly beneath the soil of today’s trends. That’s just the way it is, I guess.
- J Tury