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Were Video Stores Better than Internet Streaming?

"Streaming is definitely easier. But maybe it’s not better."

by
Walter Hudson

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November 1, 2013 - 7:00 am
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An entire generation of young people will soon emerge from childhood without ever having gone to a video store. That inevitability motivated the above commentary from BuzzFeed, a nostalgic look back at our shared experience venturing out to find an evening’s entertainment. The narrator concludes:

But now video stores have gone the way of the American buffalo. There’s barely any left. You can’t just walk to the strip mall with friends and try to outdo each other with the weirdest looking movie cover. There’s no more chatting with the movie geek clerk about the uber-violent Japanese gangster movies he recommends, and no more Saturday afternoon trips because the weather was too ugly to play outside.

Somehow we decided it was just easier to never leave the house ever. And it’s definitely easier. But maybe it’s not better.

As the rate of technological advancement continues to increase, perhaps we will soon outgrow such “back in my day” nostalgia and come to recognize that market-driven progress is always better than the way things were. Watching this look back on the video-store culture reminds us of the myriad other ways in which yesterday becomes romanticized while the here and now lies in scorn.

As it turns out, there weren’t always video stores. It used to be that, if you wanted to watch a movie, you had to commit an entire evening to the adventure of cinema. You couldn’t just browse shelves of video cassettes or DVDs looking through a library of features culled from the history of film. Rather, your choices were limited to the latest releases, and you had to get out and see them quickly before they disappeared from theaters. Somehow we decided it was just easier to grab a video and head back home to view it at our convenience. And it’s definitely easier. But maybe it’s not better.

On second thought, video stores clearly were better than movie theaters in many situations, as internet streaming is clearly better than video stores. Otherwise, people would not choose one over the other.

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Top Rated Comments   
What about the people who live in video rental outlet deserts?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I was going to say Redbox, or the local library which also has a check-out video box where you can scroll through various movies on a rainy Saturday when you're looking for ANYthing and right away. I quit going to theaters for the most part because of the behavior of the audiences -- too much whispering and chattering and talking back to the screen and small children running up and down the aisles while mom was evidently comatose and unable to function in her own seat. Blockbuster was also somewhat cheaper than going to a theater. For the most part, I liked Blockbuster, usually found the clerks knowledgeable and the lines weren't *that* long. If you were looking through various titles and someone's kid came racing by two or three times in front of you playing tag, a foot popped out at the appropriate time could cause said spawn to do a really nice face plant. *lol* And not a damned thing the negligent parental unit could do about it, since everyone knows that kids trip and fall all the time any way, and besides, why was said kid running inside the store in the first place???
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I miss the old video stores as well.

The original mom & pop stores were a breath of fresh air, because prior to them you had the choice of watching the movie on the big screen or waiting (years!) for the movie to be shown on broadcast tv.

The big name stores like Blockbuster were better than the mom & pop stores because you had a wider variety to choose from.

The bad part about places like Blockbuster were the late fees and membership fees, plus their cost to rent became uncompetitive.

If I remember correctly, you had to pay something like $3 or $4 to rent one video at Blockbuster - and you can now purchase those same quality movies at Wal Mart for $5.

The final straw for me to drop going to Blockbuster years ago was when they kept charging my account for late fees - even though I knew for a fact that I had returned the movies on time. I figure they - or at least that particular store - were trying to boost profits via fees instead of figuring other ways to remain competitive and make a profit.

What I MISS about the stores, whether it was the old mom & pops or Blockbuster, was the experience of simply strolling the aisles and letting your curiosity lead you.

Often I would go in with no notion of what specific movie I wanted to rent, and would spend time just slowly walking along until something caught my attention.

Sometimes the movies sucked - other times they were fantastic.

Oh - and if you got a scratched movie you could take it back and you actually had a HUMAN who you could interact with to get it taken care of.

Now, I pick up movies at Redbox and it seems sometimes half of what I rent are unwatchable because it looks like someone took sandpaper to one side.

Haven't bothered with streaming yet as watching tv is just not THAT important to me. As a result, I just don't watch as many movies as I used to.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The internet streaming experience is hitting its teenage years. This means that Netflix is not the only player in the game as you can also choose Hulu and Hulu+ which offer more offbeat and esoteric shows as well as shows from overseas like Aussie land and France/Germany et al. There is a Sony equivalent as well. It just takes some time searching these providers out.

The hardware is not settled yet, but with the large existing consumer base of blu-ray players and PS3, Xbox game consoles that do double duty as streaming media players it opens up a whole new vista of possibilities. Roku is cheap and very easy to install. PS3/4 is a mature system with very good controls. Xbox doesn't quite know if it wants to be in the game yet as with all Microsoft consumer products it doesn't get much beyond the basics.

For those that love old movies there are several websites that will search all of the player databases and show you where you can get your favorite movie or tv shows. It is out there you just have to put forth the effort to weed out the chaff.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I miss going to the video store. It was a weekend ritual for my former roommate and I. On a Saturday if we were bored (usually hung over) we went over to the blockbuster on 8th avenue and see what new releases were still available.
The biggest thing I miss about video stores is when a movie was released on DVD, it was released THAT DAY! None of this waiting 30-60 days crap we have to endure now because we don't want to pay 25 bucks for the Blu-ray edition the movie studios are shoving at us.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No, they weren't. Digital killed the video star.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
With our Roku 3, I can't imagine going back to the old video store. Nowadays, Netflix has so much, and there are so many more choices available among Roku's streaming site selections. Now there are even programs being created strictly for streaming sites. I used the Roku and went through the entire Breaking Bad series in a 2 week period and finished just in time to watch the last episode. There was no way to do something like that at an old video store without a lot more hassle. I don't miss the old video store at all.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well I truely miss Blockbuster. I didn't always appreciate Blockbuster, expecially after they bought out my favorite mom&pop store and sanitized the selection. But I grew to love them over time. I really enjoyed the ritual I had with my wife on Saturday nights; if she didn't have a list of movies she wanted to see she would send me with directives against selecting anything violent or horror which meant chick flicks, comedy or drama. Recently I caught her cheating on me watching a tivo'd zombie flick and I had to remind her of her old prime directives. So I grew to love Blockbuster, and in its wake I had a breif fling with Hollywood Videos until they too abandoned me. Blockbuster wasn't perfect, I hated the late fees and often return rentals to the wrong store, and during the phase out of video tape and it's replacement with DVD a ton of great classics were lost and never returned. We tried Netflix and found it had a disappointingly poor selection, and standing in line at Redbox in the cold for a chance to scroll through another limited and rather crappy selection was disappointing as well. Now we mostly Tivo stuff from cable. I really miss Blockbuster.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Isn't our desire to avoid social interaction, in part, because there is more risk now? What if the movie I choose is racially offensive to the clerk, they mishear a word or I complain about something they said.
Easier to buy from Amazon and stream for Netflix.
I am a rock, I am an island.
I am safer from potential hassles by avoiding the situation.
Suspect this is part of why we bowl alone, prefer online to in person.
Aren't we all tired of worrying about offending someone?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Actually I don't mind offending liberals.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What about the people who live in video rental outlet deserts?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Probably streaming deserts as well.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are a lot reasons why streaming videos are more convenient and when viewed on the latest video equipment provide a better than in theater experience. There is a big however, that others have mentioned. It enhances the kind of social isolation and atomization that leads to big government. It destroys social mediating institutions that stand between you and the government. I consider that the cost is greater than the benefit.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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