Like McRibs and 'Night Court,' Blockbuster isn't as good as you remember. Why reboot it?
Bring back Blockbuster?
What, are you nuts? I think I still owe some late fees.
Seriously — not that late fees aren’t serious; Blockbuster took them quite seriously, as I recall — is there still room in a streaming world for a video-rental store?
Let’s rewind a minute here.
Not sorry, actually. Rewind is the right word. Earlier this week people noticed that Blockbuster’s still-in-existence website had updated its home page. It shows the familiar blue-and-yellow movie ticket with the phrase, “We are working on rewinding your movie.”
It may mean nothing, of course. Or it may, as some have speculated, mean that the company is getting ready to get back in business. The former seems more likely, but never underestimate the power of nostalgia for things that weren’t as good as you remember them being.
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How else do you explain the existence of a “Night Court” reboot? Or the annual run on McDonald’s when they bring back the McRib “for a limited time only.”
People, Blockbuster is like (the original) “The Karate Kid” — OK, but not as good as you remember.
There is an understandable nostalgia around video-rental stores generally. Quentin Tarantino famously worked at one, after all, mowing through the inventory as he taught himself to be a great filmmaker.
He is the exception.
More likely your experience was arriving at your local Blockbuster with excitement, a movie you finally wanted to see released on video, heading to the massive display wall with dozens and dozens of copies and finding … everything rented already. How? When did these people show up? And when are the movies due back?
Sigh. So it’s “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.” Again?
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There was a magic to things being unavailable on-demand
Disappointments aside — and just pull on up to my rocking chair while I put in my ear horn so I can tell you a story — video-rental stores came along at a time when, hard as this may be for my children to understand, not everything was available whenever you wanted it.
There was a kind of magic when a movie you were dying to see but never made it to the theater for finally showed in the video store — and you could bring it home! No charge for repeated viewings.
One of my brothers rented “Dumb and Dumber,” for instance. He waited till his sons went bed to watch it, to see if it was appropriate for them. He loved it so much when he got to the end he rewound it and watched it again.
But, as it must with all video rentals, the due date arrived and he took it back.
And if it was late or he failed to rewind, they fined him.
Still, there was, no doubt, a kind of fantasy aura to video stores. You were surrounded by titles, so many that, unless you were Tarantino, you couldn’t make your way through all of them if you tried. Like-minded movie lovers milled about alongside you, although they were often competing with you for the hit of the day.
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Why did Blockbuster shut down?
It’s different now. Redbox, which was kind of a "Blockbuster-on-your-corner" enterprise, and of course Netflix, with its lack of late fees and home delivery, dealt a serious blow to Blockbuster. Streaming services killed it off (almost) entirely.
It's just so convenient now. If you want to watch “Wednesday” on Netflix, there’s no line. It doesn’t matter how many people want to watch at the same time, or are already watching it.
There’s an argument to be made that the scarcity of availability made you appreciate the video you wanted more when you finally scored it. The whole absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder thing, which is overrated. There’s a stronger argument to be made that streaming services don’t close.
The logistics of a Blockbuster comeback don’t seem to work for that reason, among others. Including: How’s your VCR doing these days? I know, I know, Blockbuster had gone to DVDs before it collapsed. (One store in Bend, Oregon, remains.)
But they’re the ones who said they were rewinding.
Maybe Blockbuster could exist happily as a kind of boutique outlet for hard-to-find titles, though that seems unlikely. Blockbuster always played the volume game. Maybe, like the “Night Court” reboot, which is a hit and has been renewed for a second season, people will simply flock to it because it’s there.
Or maybe Blockbuster is just teasing us.
I hope so. My memories evidently aren’t as rosy as some people’s, but the past is occasionally a nice place to visit. But you know what they say, I wouldn’t want to rent a movie there.
Reach Goodykoontz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Blockbuster video comeback isn't as great as you'd think. Like McRibs