This week’s announcement that Blockbuster is shuttering its remaining video stores was greeted with a ho hum by most of the public. Some may have assumed that the company already had disappeared, recalling its 2010 bankruptcy filing. Others may have skipped past the news as they clicked into their Netflix queue.
In my case, of course, news of Blockbuster’s demise triggered a bout of remembrance….
As much as I love movies, I was a latecomer to home video. I didn’t buy my first VCR until the summer of 1992, when I was in my early 30s. But once the VCR was set up in my apartment, I went into video rental overdrive, and the Blockbuster on 6th Avenue near 8th Street in Manhattan got a lot of my business that summer (and thereafter).
It wasn’t the cool, artsy video store in the East Village, nor the cozy neighborhood shop where I lived in Brooklyn. Nevertheless, Blockbuster had movies, and lots of them. Its blend of the latest hits, popular older movies, and some of the classics was just right for me.
I visited Blockbuster 3-4 times a week that summer, always filled with anticipation over what I might discover. I’d start with the new arrivals in the front of the store, then went toward the back to check out the oldies. Rare was the time I walked out empty handed.
Businesses may come and go, and Blockbuster has had its run. But I’m not alone in remembering the fun of picking out a movie there and loading it into my VCR later that night, minutes after the pizza was delivered! Having that kind of easy access to thousands of movies — no more scouring the TV listings in hopes that a favorite would pop up — changed dramatically how we engaged the medium, and made for many enjoyable evenings at home.