I've always loved renting movies. I remember going with my parents, walking down the street to the neighborhood place on a Friday night. My sisters and I would scramble around the store to get a kids one, and my parents would get a grown-up one, or we'd get like two or three that we could all watch together. My sisters and I would run around the store, bringing them different options. Trying to talk them into getting the microwave popcorn, soda and a candy bar deal.
In the end, after presenting our cases, Mom and Dad would decide on two (or maybe three, if there was a special deal) that would could rent, along with some cool microwave popcorn and sour gummis (If we had been good).
In high school, one of the things I remember most about hanging out with friends, or boys, or boyfriends, was renting movies. It was a huge ordeal. At least, it was for me. I am a pretty decisive person, but I love, LOVE movies, and I love wandering the aisles of a movie rental place, for an hour or more, trying to figure out what movie I am most in the mood to see. And with the boy you were just starting to date, there was always the fun of sneaking up on each other, making out in the "Kids" section. Daring each other to run behind the partition to the Adult section.
My best friends and I went on this kick where we tried to watch the "Top 10″ of lots of different kids of movies in high school. She had a guest house with a big tv that some famous artist's son had committed suicide in the room and it was the perfect place to scare ourselves silly watching "The Shining" and "Psycho" and all that good nonsense for the first time. We would scream and cry and then pretend we were fine.
Now with Netflix and Redbox, On Demand and fancy movie channels, the rental spots are shutting down. Yes, they were expensive and had unrealistic expectations about my ability to return a film in two days. But they were such fun places. You would always run into someone you knew from school on a Friday night. Me and Danny would wander into the kid movie section and point out all our old favorites that we used to have on Beta tape, movies we knew every line and song to. He was a film major for a while and I learned so much from him and all the obscure action, indie and foreign movies I watched with him and other movie buff boyfriends that followed.
But now we don't even want to get in a car, go to a store specifically designed to hold lots of shelves with movies and be staffed by acne-prone teenage boys who just want to get their shift done and be back on their xBox, and pick out an actual physical DVD or videotape. We just want to push buttons on our remotes. All these supposed "conveniences" in our lives kinda take the fun out of it, when you think about it.
A few nights ago, driving home, I saw the Blockbuster sign and compulsively pulled in to the drive and decided to find something to watch. I had "Singing in the Rain" in mind, but wandered around for twenty minutes. It was like 9:30p.m. on a Friday night, and ten years ago, any movie place would have been packed. That night, there was only me and one other guy browsing the racks. It was sad. I felt a little pathetic for having no other plans for the night, and I felt sad that this is just another part of my childhood, a really cool part I think, that is disappearing.
Will my kids even know what it means to "rent a movie?" Will we be able to have that lovely, agonizing, family experience of picking out something we all want to watch? Or will they just ask (or text) Mom and Dad "hey, can we download a movie to watch tonight on our iPhones? We can all sit next to each other in the living room and stuff, but I want to watch my own thing, so I'm bringing my headphones. K? Cool."
Goodbye, Blockbuster. I mourn you deeply. I think others do, too.