In this piece for itchysilkLIVE, Lorna May takes a nostalgic look at the iconic Blockbuster video store. Modernity unfortunately has not been kind. Blockbusters faces obscurity. But before that obscurity lets indulge.
From 9000 locations around the globe, it has come down to just one. Bend (Oregon, USA) is the place where the last Blockbuster stands alone. The slow downfall of what once was the largest video rental chain in the world is little surprise in the era of on-demand video streaming.
The store is such an iconic throwback to another time, that the sole word ‘Blockbuster’ can miraculously regain memory to the amnesiac.
This local video store of yesteryear used to be the sacred temple of film. A collective routine for some, an event for others. A place of cinematic discoveries for the virtuoso, a playground for children of all ages.
As a young teenager, there were certain cards that bestowed great power and coolness to those who possessed them. Those wielding a Blockbuster card were kings among men. I too, was a queen.
Driving to the local Blockbuster (in Italy) with my (incredibly handsome) dad, I’d spiritually prepare before entering. The great thing about Blockbuster-it was the only place on earth where you could show up wearing a pajama without being judged. I’d be chewing the longest-lasting gum on the market (at the time it was Big Bubble) which would get me through for at least an hour of rummaging.
The smell of the store was, to me, the smell of cinema itself. I’d walk around like the dude, sniffing VHS tapes (later on DVDs) and popcorn – the best smell in the whole world. Touching each and every tape, memorizing titles, reading out loud to my dad the film plot-lines, discussing directors. It has been a huge part of my film education.
There was life in the store, a general buzz of excitement. It was a time when people used to talk to each other. Make recommendations, converse about testes, argue over candy. It was a village on its own. As a premature cinephile of course, for me, it was the place to be.
Gathering Blockbuster stories from all around the world made me feel less lonesome. It reminded me that as much as our fond memories of younger days could be different, we all share the same universal feelings of adventure…discovering films, discovering each other.
Blockbuster means different things to different people. The nostalgia around it is as great as the radio was for our grandparents. The golden days of video were days of exploration, now long lost memories.
I asked to people around the globe to share their own Blockbuster stories. Here’s a collection of some of them.
THE BLOCKBUSTER MEMORY BOX.
I have memories of going to Blockbuster as a child in Brazil. It was one of the most exiting places! I hope that this Blockbuster in Oregon never closes so that we can share childhood memories like this one and use it as business example for future generations. Alan (Passos, Brazil)
My most vivid memory as a child is immediately having to pee when I got there. Every. Damn. Time. Probably the excitement of looking at the games and seeing if good ones has a case behind a case. Christian (Montreal, Canada)
My brother and I would sit on the floor and eat snacks while watching a movie that played in the corner of the room. Mom was doing laundry at the laundromat. I don’t have a lot of memories from my childhood, but I won’t forget that one. Sara (Louisville, USA)
My grandfather would load me up and wait patiently as I strolled down every aisle, looking for a movie or show that caught my eye. Now that I am grown, and he had passed, these trips to Blockbuster together are an extremely fond memory of mine. They remind me of his compassion and his patience. They remind me of his desire to make me happy because of his adoration and love for me. Brianna (Florence, Italy)
I remember waiting impatiently for big movies to finally be available to rent. Then hurrying out to the Blockbuster as soon as my mom got home from work on a Friday evening. You’d know it was available because there would be a VHS box behind one of the many pictures of the cover art lining the walls. I was just jazzed that we’d finally be watching a movie I’d been waiting for all winter. We cracked open the box…and it was the wrong movie. Natalie (Coney Island, USA).
I was a small child, and completely obsessed with TMNT (the 90s live action ones, mind you. THE ONLY TRUE VERSIONS) and the guy looking at me like “wtf?” and I was screaming “COWABUNGA!”. Dylan (Dallas, USA)
As a kid, being terrified of the cover of certain movie that I HAD to walk past when I went in. I was almost glad when mine closed because I’d never have to see it again. Anna (Perth, Australia)
I was discovering Texas Chainsaw Massacre with my friends. The movie opened my eyes to cinema, the film lingered in our collective memories. We were stoned at the Blockbuster and we liked the cover for its campiness. It was almost two decades ago. Steven (New York, USA)
They had a video game contest and I won the first prize! It was a free movie per week pass including new releases. This was a HUGE status symbol. Plus the fact I outsmarted a bunch of gamer guys with my girlish smarts! Helena (Queenstown, New Zealand)
Trying to sidle past uncomfortable patrons who were quite obviously browsing dirty movies, but made rather transparent attempts to appear to be scanning lots of titles with feigned disinterest. Then we used to go to see what they had picked, after watching them from a distance to see how pervy they were! Rupert (Yorkshire, UK)
Back in high school I went into Blockbuster and asked for the anime section. I was pointed to Disney movies. I was there to watch the anime section appear and grow over the years. Mark (Hong Kong, China)
This is where we camped for concert tickets as teenagers in the 80s. We hid our alcohol in solo cups, turned up the radios in our trucks, rolled out the sleeping bags in the truck beds and hung out until we passed out. The next morning, the designated sober one from the night before, bought the tickets. We took turns with that position. Awe, the memories! Rod (Sacramento, USA)
One time I asked for the Godfather par 1,2 and 3. God, I didn’t know anything about life before that film! Miguel (Madrid, Spain)
I used to hang around there a lot as a teen. Mostly because I liked this girl working there. I saw thousands of movies because of her. The girl is gone. The movies are still in my mind. Jonathan (Westville, South Africa)
Date night. It was where we learned where our interests overlapped. And where we gained all our couples weight from all the movie snacks. Julia (Copenhagen, Denmark)
My ex husband proposed to me right next to the horror section. As you might have guessed, the marriage didn’t turn out so well. Susanne (Galway, Ireland)
Therapist said to do a movie night with my family. Wife, kids and I would take turns picking up a movie every week. It was an attempt to make everyone feel more connected with each other. It helped for a bit, but it didn’t last. Still, it lasted longer than a lot of the other things. Hans (Frankfurt, Germany)
I used to go with my husband and there was this aroma of popcorn that made me feel like a kid again! Walking through the thousands of stories waiting to be seen, the feeling was like when you go to the opera on opening night! Rosemarie (New York, USA)
I can’t think of anything right now, but I do still have my Blockbuster card. I use it for drugs. Brit (Oslo, Norway)
Blockbuster was my place for calming down after a rough day, and to learn, through cinema, what the world was like. Renee (Tel Aviv, Israel)
My first horror movie made it to their shelves. Seeing it up there got me more exited that the actual premiere! Mike (Dallas, USA)
And lastly, what’s your Blockbuster story?