Well, this week brought with it some interesting news: DISH Network has announced that it will be closing the remaining 300 retail Blockbuster stores in the United States, as well as cease their Netflix-inspired mailing service. This doesn’t come as a tremendous surprise, given that the franchise had been reduced to 300 stores in the U.S. to begin with. Here in Canada, that was a pill we already swallowed a couple of years back.
For me, I have to admit that this feels kind of personal. Not in a “oh, they’re closing the stores just to spite me” kind of personal, but in that Blockbuster has played a not-insignificant part in my life over the years. Certainly, it’s been fading sadly away as time goes on, with the locations which meant anything to me having already long since passed, but there is nonetheless a certain sadness involved in knowing that come early January 2014, there will be no more Blockbuster Nights.
Of course, before Blockbuster Video (later just Blockbuster) became the juggernaut it would be best known as for a good chunk of its existence, there were the local Mom ‘n Pop video stores. Recently, James “The Angry Video Game Nerd” Rolfe and Mike Matei recalled what these stores were like. I can think of no better summation than this video (though there may be some Not Safe For Work language in there, just as a warning. It’s been a while since I watched it through, so I don’t remember), so have a look for a bit of nostalgic education:
Additionally, BuzzFeed Yellow has a quicker summary of what the experience was like:
Both videos are fairly recent, and amazingly timely in light of this news.
As for smaller, locally-owned stores, I remember one particularly well, called “Sandra’s Fun Time Video”. In retrospect, the name sounds like it might lean towards the kinky side, but at about nine or ten years old, that was well beyond me. It was a small place, but rather well-stocked with new VHS tapes and– more importantly– video games. There were a couple of other video stores my parents would go to– or that I’d pester them to go to, because they had something Sandra’s didn’t– but for the most part, that was the place. I forget the exact rates, but the best deals were renting for a weekend on Friday, or the weekly “Dollar Night” on Tuesday (I think).
The people at Sandra’s were cool. We’d occasionally get to take home some promotional materials (standees, posters, etc.) from releases that became less-than-recent, and they would also do certain favors for us. When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was coming to the Nintendo Entertainment System, I just had to have it. And thanks to them, I was able to. I don’t remember why I went through them– I seem to recall hearing a rumor about the buttons being in that ridiculous configuration where B is Jump and A is attack, and that made me uneasy about dropping my own hard-earned money on the game. So I was able to rent it, and once I learned that whoever said that was simply wrong, I managed to order a copy.
I also remember that back before used game stores were a thing, they allowed my dad to sell some of our old games there. This was a decision I’d come to regret in time (miss you, Contra, Strider, and DuckTales), but in my youth, newer was better. As such, I didn’t think anything of it at the time, if it meant we’d be able to get new games. I don’t believe I’ve ever traded a game I didn’t have an extra copy of since, though.
Also, fun fact: My dad created his own guide to Platoon for those who would rent that merciless title.
However, things change with time, and eventually Blockbuster Video came to town. I’d seen ads on television, but never seen one in person– it was almost like the video store equivalent of having a Toys R Us open up in your town (Note: Toys R Us, at least back then, was purely a big-city thing. You’d not find the likes of it in the types of smaller towns I grew up in). It was big, it was bright, it was shiny, it was new– their grand opening even had spotlights! Spotlights, shining towards the heavens, like a big Hollywood premiere! And as it so happened with the timing, it also had something else. Something that Sandra’s didn’t have, and I don’t know if they ever got (we wound up moving before very long, so that’s why).
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
This was a big deal to me, particularly being the Mario Maniac that I am/was (don’t forget how I responded to this commercial, after all). Unfortunately, my parents weren’t sold on getting one (yet), or even renting one. My jerkhole neighbors rented one, complete with my then-holy grail of Super Mario World, but I was only allowed to play it briefly, and not even on a new file– I had to start somewhere in the middle of Chocolate Island.
But here was this new store in town, and they had the Super NES– or “Super Nintendo,” as we typically called it– and they even had a TV set up to run Super Mario World. I think I got to play for the briefest of time before my parents basically had to drag me away– it went like this for a while.
After moving, it was a local Kmart with the Super NES and Super Mario World hooked up, and if I could get them to go there, my feet pretty much remained glued in place until it hurt to walk. But before that, I believe it was Blockbuster which first gave me my taste of Super Power.
Doing something different, and breaking this up into smaller parts. Next time: The Blockbuster World Video Game Championships, GamePro, SEGA Saturn, and Virtual Boy.
For those who wish to read up on the full story of Blockbuster closing and the thoughts of others on the matter, please visit the following links:
- Blockbuster Officially Killing Off Remaining Stores And DVDs By Mail – The Consumerist
- The Sun Sets—For Good—on the Blockbuster Night – Kotaku
- Why I Mourn Blockbuster Video – Forbes
- End of an Era: Blockbuster Video, R.I.P. – Topless Robot
- MovieBob’s Re-Tales: Blockbusted