The apex of the digital age has come and gone. It’s clear we’re on the backside now in the chaotic aftermath of an oversaturated market. Sure, nearly every media title is available on streaming but now there are so many platforms, that just finding and accessing a sought after film is more trouble than its worth.
A handful of years ago before the streaming wars began it was Netflix and Redbox for physical rentals and digital films. Before that there were a few dying Blockbusters and Hollywood Videos, but the second DVD’s could get sent to our houses it was the death blow to that industry.
In addition to more pocket rental kiosks and home delivery, a few premium cable networks like HBO, Showtime, and Starz had their titles but they weren’t gobbling up everything in site to squeeze the consumers to only choose their exclusive platform.
Then came the boom.
Within the last 8 years we’ve got the emergence and complete domination of Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO Max, Youtube TV, Fubo, Vudu, Roku, Peacock, Apple TV, and Paramount Plus. They’ve been hard at work locking down their own properties in a very unsharing marketplace.
Not only are all older movie titles now digitally spoken for but new ones are now often exclusively made by the platforms and only viewable on those streaming services as well. The problem is too many necessary subscriptions.
Maybe I’m old fashioned but it’s exhausting, signing up for a service to access a title I wanted to watch, if you’re not fortunate enough to already subscribe to that vendor. Between creating an account, verifying the account, adding a payment method, making a profile, adding personal info to said profile, and then finally accessing the title I wanted, I could have been to the video store and back twice over without my eyes bleeding from screen time.
What the digital age has us all forgetting is the joy of the bricks and mortar movie hunt. Sometimes the best adventures are the journeys themselves. Walking into a video store and staring at titles on boxes seemed so much more fun and satisfying than scrolling through a sea of digital art and images that blend together via remote or desktop.
Sometimes seeing the title on the shelf made me realize I wanted to watch it, or haven’t seen it yet and prompted the rental. A few days ago I had to scroll down 6 pages of Amazon Prime home screen prime just to find new “non prime” release movies and when I got there, the selection was skim.
There’s a great feeling of accomplishment when going into a location, physically grabbing something and taking it with you to enjoy. There’s something called the IKEA DIY effect, which is a feeling of joy and accomplishment that comes with assembling something ourselves. The same could be said of the Video Store effect when you go looking for something and find it, or locate something else to watch and enjoy it. Physical action indeed helps to create memory.
Before you blast me and say that no one has DVD players anymore, I’d like to remind you that all modern video game consoles play DVD’s. Most households do have those and if not, old DVD players are easy to find. Also with DVD’s and Blue Ray there’s no buffering, no loss of internet signal or low bandwidth to ruin your night. You also stare at the video package on your coffee table so you remember to watch it and not forget to jump back in if you fell asleep.
The Video Store also offered quality snacks and a reason to leave the house. Sometimes leaving to get a movie was the only time we went to town (if you lived in the burbs or country) and that’s okay because it was an event. We searched for entertainment and were on our feet. it was a mission. We then hunted for treats. If you’re a couple or in a squad it becomes a team building mission. Agreements must be made and compromises had for the enjoyment of all. Did you have to pay a monthly fee to access the vide store? NO. You just paid for what you rented. It was a fair deal, not geared to fleece you regularly like streaming platforms.
In closing, the video store is dead and will stay this way. I know this. corporate greed and sheer convenience have replaced the fun of an outing with love ones where we share memories, talk about movies, and plan an evening.
Now we sit on a couch, stare at a screen as one person scrolls and are overwhelmed by an abundance of titles we’ve never heard of, since no one network has too much of anything anymore.
The video store wasn’t about the movie. There’s no guarantee any movie won’t suck. It was the smell of the store, the physical boxes, the hunt, the discovery, the conversations, the agreement, that was the evening, not the film. Digital media has given us wonderful access to many things and it’s not bad, but it has robbed an entire generation of the joy of this forgotten facet of moviegoing.