Four days ago, I was standing in the parking lot of Toco Hill Shopping Center. I had just bought two new Blu-ray movies and three DVDs for practically nothing. I stared at my new, dirt-cheap copy of Greenberg and felt a little bad about it. It's strange to scavenge in the ruins of a failed and obsolete business model.
Blockbuster Video in Toco Hill Shopping Center is closing, and that's kind of a sad thing. Because it's clearly the end for movie rental stores, as it's been for a while now.
Just last week, Virginia Highland-Druid Hills Patch ran a , a cool, independent movie rental store closing. Ten years ago, I probably would have been a regular customer. But I moved to Atlanta in 2008, and, sadly, I've never even heard of the place.
I'm a Netflix subscriber, so it's been a while since I visited a movie rental store. I've got one of those snazzy Blu-ray players with an Internet hook-up that basically allows me to stream every image created by man to my HD television. My Blockbuster card, proudly issued to me in high school, is tattered, barely legible and remains in my wallet only for emergencies. ("You haven't seen The Conversation? That's– Why? ... OK. No, it's OK. We can fix this. Give me 10 minutes. There's probably a Blockbuster around here...")
I used to go to Blockbuster at least once a week from 1997 to 2005. It's where I discovered the films of Scorsese, Altman, De Palma, Corman and Bertolucci and on and on. (One of them was a bizarrely eclectic Blockbuster.) And I desperately wanted to work there in high school. I once wore a suit to interview for a shift manager position I didn't get because when I was asked how I would sell to customers, I said, "Well, I mean, I don't know. You've pretty much got them once they walk through the front door. Who comes to a Blockbuster to not rent a movie?"
This was a terrible answer, apparently. But you live and you learn and, eventually, fall back on journalism.
While I love the fact that I can watch ...And Justice for All at 4 in the morning on a Sunday just by clicking the play button on my remote control, there's something slightly cool about a building dedicated to the movie rental process. A lot of those Blockbusters were huge. You walked into a Blockbuster, and it was like you were walking into an archive or a library or a vault. A really ridiculous vault. It made movie watching seem like less of a waste of time.
But that's kind of pretentious, isn't it. Which is why I had no problem taking advantage of the Toco Hill Blockbuster on what will likely be my last visit to one of their stores. A manager approached before I left and said, "If you sign up for our online service for only five dollars for one month, you can get those two Blu-rays for free."
Clearly, this is the company's last-ditch attempt to get with the times. Those Blu-rays would have cost me $30.
I said OK. And yet I have every intention of canceling my subscription at the end of the month before it bumps up to the normal monthly rate. Blockbuster might as well call in hospice at this point.
While I was browsing, I kept hearing strange covers of songs by Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Beyonce.
"Why are you guys playing these weird covers of all this music?" I said. "You usually have the real songs playing, right?"
"This is the Glee soundtrack on CD," he said. "I just put it on."
As it turns out, Blockbuster could no longer afford to play the real songs.
Walking out with those Blu-rays and a super-cheap batch of DVDs didn't feel great. It didn't feel bad either. I mean, Greenberg is a pretty awesome movie.
But it's a little like kicking a man while he's down.