Internet killed the video store

With the advent of the Internet and the rise of online video streaming, there has been a significant decline in video rental stores. Blockbuster, born in 1985, passed quietly away into a few meager franchise stores last year, after struggling with bankruptcy since 2010. It, and several other movie rental companies like Hollywood Video, have been succeeded by Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, and other streaming services.

Society has lost a gem of its culture by moving the movie renting experience onto the Web. Gone are the days where people scoop their family up on a hot summer night, plop them into the car, and drive them to the local video store to fight endlessly over what movie to pick out. That timeless debate between dad’s old-time classic and sister’s cheap chick flick, because there was only enough room in the budget to rent one movie, is now an almost-forgotten tradition.

Nothing beats the sensation of staring down the rows of videos shelved neatly together by genre and release date, besides perhaps that feeling of elation from snagging the last new release from a barren rack in the front of the store.

The pinnacle of the video store experience was that faint smell of candy and popcorn that permeated the entire building. It was the scent of anticipation, the tangible feeling of handling a genuine product and understanding that it would soon translate into roughly two hours of pure and simple entertainment.

This aroma was emitted directly from the checkout line, a place where people can interact with a real live human employee, who was likely just as enthusiastic about movies as customers. The goodies responsible for that sweet scent in the checkout lines reflected the delectableness of theater concession stands, without the unfortunate aspect of ludicrous theater prices.

There was a sense of community belonging to neighborhood video stores. Now the world is left with online video-streaming services where individuals can scroll endlessly through massive reservoirs of movies and TV shows without even needing to change out of their three-sizes-too-big comfy pajama pants. But of the hundreds of films and television shows to view for a relatively low monthly fee, there’s not really anything legitimately worth watching. This issue intensifies when friends and family are added into the equation, and the desperate search for something to watch on a Friday night quickly deteriorates into a mad conflict for control over the remote.

The limitless nature of online streaming also encourages an unhealthy tract of binge watching, which is commonly known as “the bane of college student success.” Nothing says procrastination like watching an entire season of “House of Cards” in one sitting, which is surprisingly easy to do when content flows freely with a click of 

a button.

A remnant sense of those old video stores survives at the UW, through the University Libraries’ media center. The media center operates much like a movie rental joint, only it is arranged by production company rather than genre.

The media center is a nostalgic release for anyone exhausted with online video streaming, and is free for student use. Viewing material from tangible media sources can be a freedom from binge watching, and the media center offers a taste of the old school-video checkout process for those here for school.

Netflix, the world loves you, disregarding your Qwikster stint in 2011. But there is no memory, no human element in the easy online video streaming process. No longer can people hold the rented video in their grasp, turning it over in their hands and examining it with fervent anticipation as they and their family drive home to watch it. Individuals are instead reduced to staring at a cold loading bar at 2:30 in the morning, silently telling themselves to watch another episode, vainly attempting to believe they have a genuine interest in this show in the first place.

Looks like radio got the last laugh after all. 


Reach writer Stephen Edde at opinion@dailyuw.comTwitter: @Americanguy1776

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