My buddy and I were having a conversation today and Blockbuster video game up. I know, even writing the word 'Blockbuster' now makes people "LOL" (probably more of a "GABI" - 'giggling a bit inside'). Yes, the video store chain has been an afterthought for quite some time now and, like that person you see walking around still sporting JNCO jeans, you can't help but snicker just a tad. However, unlike those stupid jeans (which probably singlehandedly put Gadzooks under), I actually have good memories of Blockbuster.
Yes, they were too slow to change, the Woolworth's of video stores. Their half assed attempts at both Netflix and Red Box clones were too little and too late, and they were no longer a 'go-to' place for videos in a digital age...but do you remember when they were?
There was a time before Rotten Tomatoes, a time before IMDB. A time when there were only a few avenues to get movie advice before seeing something - either you had a friend that had seen it or you read Siskel & Ebert's opinion in the Sunday morning paper. As a 10 year old kid, I basically had to go the friend route or the 'ask the Blockbuster employee' (who sometimes turned out to be the beginning of the eventual evolution into the 'Internet movie elitist'), hoping he'd either seen it or heard from someone who had. Even tougher when you wanted to rent something that was rated-R, and your parents had to ask the employee why it was rated-R (because, as it goes in America, sex is a no-no, but violence is a yes).
I refer to it as the age of browsing covers. It was important to have a cover that really stood out if you wanted someone to watch your movie. Sometimes, really bad movies had great, great covers. Can't tell you how many times I walked by Navy SEALS or Sniper, just itching to watch it so I could reenact the best scenes with my brother. God forbid you actually found a movie that you wanted to watch, only to see that the tape wasn't stuck in the big white, blue and yellow box behind the empty shell on the shelf. There was always the hope that someone had returned it, just sitting in the return drop box. Once you actually did rent something, you always had to make sure it was back on time, because this was also the age of the 'late fee'. Lastly, hopefully you brought your Blockbuster card that was buried deep in the recesses of your wallet.
Yes, they're completely gone now, but some memories will live on. What won't live on is going to rent a video and realizing that you had a late fee from last time. Yuck.