An Ode to Movie Rental Stores

By Casey Gale

When I was little, my parents would take me to Blockbuster on Friday night. As we entered the store, there were movies scattered all over to choose from, sorted on shelves by genre. We would start in the children’s section so I could pick out a movie to watch over the weekend. Then, I would follow my parents throughout the store as they chose a movie to watch after I went to bed. I remember picking up various video or DVD cases and reading the description on the back, being spooked by scary covers or intrigued by the forbidden R-rated movies. As we checked out, the cashier would explain that we had seven days to return the movie and proceeded to give us a complementary box of popcorn. Choosing weekend movies was an experience.

 As I grew up, technology improved, thus making movie rental stores obsolete. iTunes began an online movie rental service, Netflix came into popularity, and Redbox started popping up outside of every pharmacy. Blockbuster left my town, replaced by a chain restaurant. The movie rental business was forever changed into something much more efficient, yet far less special.

As a movie lover, I still want to snuggle up and watch a flick as often as I did when I was young. Nowadays, I only have Netflix to turn to for such entertainment. While Netflix is convenient and cheap, it simply is not the same.

To read the description of a film on Netflix, one must click on the movie of choice and wait for a new screen to load. Browsing is possible, but it is not the same as wandering around a store, spending time with family to find the perfect movie. To use Netflix, one needs to already have an idea of what genre they’re interested in before they begin browsing. A slow Internet connection can make the browsing process frustrating and time consuming. Once a movie is selected, there are two choices: order the movie through the mail or watch it on the computer. Both require a waiting period, as even watching it on the computer or through Apple TV can take a while to load. There is something undoubtedly cold and unexciting about this rental method.

Movie rental stores remind me of a simpler time. Watching a film did not used to rely on having a good Internet connection. Searching through individual web pages of movies online in an attempt to figure out what to watch was not necessary. Perhaps it took more energy, but I would love nothing more than to still be able to drive to the local rental store and spend twenty minutes reading movie descriptions on the back of the cases. This experience has been lost. No, going to Blockbuster on a Friday night wasn’t life altering, but it was a simple pleasure that I enjoyed with my parents and friends. My future children will never have the chance to do that, and I cannot help but mourn yet another simple family pastime disappearing from existence.

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