Beyond Blockbuster: 6 Key Stages Of Home Video Evolution
Soon, Blockbuster will be no more. The truth is, for many of us, the store has been history for a while, but news that the chain of video stores is closing its last remaining doors is reason enough to wax nostalgic over the place it had in many of our video-watching lives. When factoring in my own personal history with home video, Blockbuster was really just a blip on a timeline full of more memorable ways to get my movie fix.
With Blockbuster's demise, now seems like as good a time as ever to review the evolution of home video over the last few decades. I grew up in a middle class household on Long Island, the middle of three sisters and a younger brother. For a family of six, going to the movies was a pricy affair and thus, a rare treat. More often than not, it involved the dollar theater that played second-run movies. But as a born and raised movie-lover, I can’t complain, as I was fortunate enough to have a tech-savvy father whose own appreciation for cinema and home entertainment technology allowed me to grow up a proper movie fan. For as long as I can remember (going back to the early 80s), we had a VCR and we had HBO. And my father even managed to barter his computer services — a hot commodity for small businesses in those days — in exchange for all the rentals we could handle from the local mom-and-pop video store in town. See, this was before Blockbuster. It was before Netflix and iTunes and On Demand. In the 80s, if you wanted something, you usually had to leave the house to get it.
Looking back at my own history of home video, I realize there were six key stages of home video evolution in my life, some more vital and memorable than others in shaping me to be the movie fan I am today.
1. The local video store.
In the pre-blockbuster era, the local video store was a privately owned establishment that you might find in a shopping center, maybe set between the liquor store and the supermarket. It was probably smaller than your average Game Stop or Hot Topic. Somewhere in that range, though. And it may have been made even smaller by the sectioned off area where they kept the adult films. I could tell you about the time I managed to sneak into that little room to see what was in there, only to have my father drag me out by the collar of my coat, but my memory of that is fuzzy, and that’s probably for the best. The point is, these cluttered little video stores were jam-packed with movies, and not just the ones you’ve heard of. If the video store was a good one, they had the weird stuff too and the guy at the counter had seen all of them. I have fond memories of my dad coming home with a tape or two on random nights when he got home from work. We always begged him to get the movies we knew and loved, but oftentimes, he’d insist on bringing something new (or something very old) home instead, and I appreciate that much more in retrospect than I did then.
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