If you never had the experience to browse through a Blockbuster store in the 90s, you really missed out. Blockbuster was important because it was the only way to see a movie outside of going to the movie theater or purchasing a copy.
There was no Netflix or even an ability to torrent a movie at that time. It took sometimes over an hour to get your dial up internet to connect. Once you were finally connected it took forever to download images and God forbid someone called your house and ruined your connection signal. Watching movies online just was not possible back then.
Blockbuster was more than just a movie rental store. Blockbuster almost became a community center that revolved around the love of movies. Neighbors and friends would run into each other and compare their selections before checking out. Not sure if the movie you picked was actually good? A clerk at the store had most likely seen it and could tell you what to get. That same clerk could also save you at the register from renting a bad movie if you took their advice. Trips there were in my normal routine as a child. Each Friday night my dad would take me to our local store where I was allowed to choose one movie and it was my favorite part of the weekend.
I miss the tactile experience that browsing in a Blockbuster store gave me. I miss reading the back of the VHS boxes and holding the movie I chose in my hands. The new releases wall became my Mount Everest and I wanted to see every movie from top to bottom. The rest of the store felt like a maze lined with options of older movies I hadn’t seen and gave me a sense of satisfaction when I found a film I had previously enjoyed. I even miss the days when the one movie I had come for was already rented out. The days I couldn’t rent the movie I originally wanted forced me to broaden my horizons and discover a different movie that I might not have normally picked.
Despite the fact that Netflix has thousands of movies and television shows to choose from, it just doesn’t sell me the same experience that Blockbuster did. Going to Blockbuster was my special Friday night outing. Watching Netflix has just become an ordinary night at home. No matter how many algorithms it develops it still doesn't beat going to an actual store and choosing a movie on your own.
It was a sad day when I watched my Blockbuster turn into a gym. Most Blockbuster locations closed in 2010 when the company filed for bankruptcy, but there are still a small handful of Blockbuster franchise locations operating in the United States. I hope that someday we see Blockbuster make a comeback. It doesn’t seem impossible that video stores can get the same type of following that record stores have seen in the past few years.
Maybe one day a new generation will have the same Blockbuster experience I enjoyed.