netflixOnce upon a time, there was Blockbuster. He was the big boy, the biggest of the video rental stores. Sadly, he grew too big, too fast and lost all of his friends. Once he was the most popular video rental store in the country. Unfortunately he was sickened by a hideous disease called “Netflix”. The viral Netflix disease chased all of Blockbuster’s friends away. Soon, all of Blockbusters friends could cure their current addiction to him, and their addiction turned to Netflix. They no longer had to trudge miles in their cars to pay Blockbuster a visit. Blockbuster soon became very sad. He had no more friends. Plus he had thousands of all these things called video tapes that he had to either throw out or give away. You see, Blockbuster had become the ultimate hoarder. For some reason, over the course of a few short years, Blockbuster insanely began stockpiling movies on videotape. For a short time this was great. All of Blockbuster’s friends would visit him and give him some money in order to borrow his tapes. He was so happy with this arrangement, that he began “cloning” himself, hundreds of times, in different cities across the nation.


Credit: MrClassicAds1990s, via YouTube

Then that disease hit big time. That virus called Netflix made all of his friends see red. They stopped coming. The only problem was, that Blockbuster still had to pay his electric bill. He had to pay all of his helpers. He had to try and keep up with the rent on his mammoth video tape hoarding locations. Not just for one location, but the locations of all of his hundreds of Blockbuster clones. Unfortunately, once Blockbuster’s friends caught the Netflix virus, it was all over. He had to kill off his clones by the dozen, and send all of his helpers home. His clones now sit empty, all of his video tapes disposed of. Huge trucks came to cart away the now diseased video tapes and brought them to landfills where they will rest in peace.


Credit: DLJameyson, via YouTube

Blockbuster wasn’t the first, but as they say, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Blockbuster had a number of pretty popular cousins. They had nice sounding names too, like West Coast Video, Rogers Video and Hollywood Video. They, too, got really big, really fast. However, they all succumbed to Netflix disease too. The Netflix virus was simply too powerful, too contagious and with no known cure. Blockbuster himself, had already killed off most of the thousands upon thousands of small, independent video stores. At one time, he grew great strength from this. He and all of his Blockbuster clones would move in to a city and devour all of the established “Mom and Pop” video stores. To those Mom and Pop stores, it was Blockbuster who was their disease.


Credit: AMC Theaters

It’s amazing to see that an entire industry, from its birth, to expansion, to widespread popularity, to its slow demise and then eventual “crash and burn”, can all take place within about 30 short years. That is the entire history of the video rental store. Idea, to birth, to growth, to extinction, all in 30 years. All due to the Tech Explosion.

In the early 1980’s, when video stores first became really popular, they were “the place to be”. Many people would go multiple times per week, maybe even every day. True movie lovers made this their constant habit. It was great. Suddenly, after years of watching on TV, only what networks decided you wanted to watch, now you could pick from thousands of movie titles. Usually, you would sign up for a monthly membership that allowed you to rent movies at a great price. This worked great for many years.

Then, in the late 1990’s, cable and satellite services began offering many more channels. This lead to a drop in movie rental sales, but the business was still brisk. The real death knell was Netflix. Initially started as a mail-order DVD rental service, Netflix made it all so easy. At first, you would get DVDs shipped super-fast and you could keep titles as long as you wanted, with no added fees. The video rental stores all charged “late fees” if you kept any movie more than a day or two. They had to do this, since they simply could not stock enough of any one popular title to keep all of its customers happy. So, if a video store had 10 copies of the hottest new movie, 10 customers would rent that movie, and all the rest had to wait for those 10 people to return the video so that they could then rent it.


Endless Choices Streaming Endlessly

Movie rental stores were a quaint setting, a chance to get out and socialize. The owners and employees of movie rental stores were generally really cool, hip and super-knowledgable about movies. Typically, each video rental store would have at least one college student who actually aspired to enter the movie-making or TV field. The store job was their connection, however remote, to the industry. Many store employees were just serious movie-geeks, knowing everything about every film genre there is. there was a great social aspect to visiting a video store and getting advice about what to watch. When a new, hot title was not available, the store clerk would offer up alternative choices for that night. Plus, they would put you on a waiting list to be next to rent the title you really wanted, and, they would call you, at home, on your landline! phone and tell you when the title came back. There was an excitement and a camaraderie to the whole process.

streamingToday, you click your mouse on your computer or swipe your finger on your iPad, and presto!, any movie you want begins playing. It’s all very neat, very clean, very easy. Too easy. It’s so easy, in fact, that movie rental and movie sales revenue is booming. The sad thing is, all of the money goes directly to Netflix, or to Apple, or to other streaming services. The local jobs that were once created by the video store are gone. Where are the “movie geeks” that once would have worked in a video store? Who knows?….maybe Walmart. Don’t get me wrong, I fully embrace this new technology, it’s just sad that it replaces human interactions and real, local jobs.

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