Updated: Oct 24, 2018
The Fading Lights of Hollywood
Aged like a fine wine, the movie going experience is something that is evolving constantly, and with the advent of streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu, it seems like some changes are quickly becoming permanent.
And while the idea of things like movie stores may already be a long forgotten concept, imagining not having a movie theater seems like a very dark future. Ok, maybe not very dark, but who doesn't enjoy going to the movies?
And not only does it change the experience for us, the consumers, but it also forces the producers to change how they market and distribute their products, forcing them to send most of their resources into the digital age.
The Land of the Lost: Movie Stores
Yes, I used a movie title reference, its clever. But in all seriousness, how many of you actually know that movie stores still exist? Because I sure didn't for a while. Haunting images of Blockbusters going out of business sales flashing through my head, as I suffered without some of my favorite movies.
While this all may seem a touch dramatic, it is kind of interesting to understand how important movie stores were for the entertainment industry. Because when you just release movies to the public for purchase, you are making them a luxury.
I know that I certainly don't want to go spend maybe twenty dollars on a movie that I liked, but wouldn't watch much. And if it is a night out at the movies, you get to watch once and it costs you maybe eight dollars before other expenses such as popcorn and candy, food items that they tempt you with as you walk in.
Really, the point is this: being able to drive to a movie store near your house and rent movies for two or three dollars made it so much easier for you to binge watch before binge watching was cool. And when you do that, the movies are no longer just a source of entertainment, they become meaningful points in your life.
I for one, can distinctly remember the days where all I wanted to be was a jedi and Star Wars would play on a loop in my house. Movies like that weren't just 2 hour breaks from reality. They were almost a ritual, a mental happy place where I could once again space out and just rewatch over and over, lost in the world George Lucas had created.
Now, I was also like six so its not like the thoughts in my head were this complex.
But when I think of these movies, I think of happier times, and this follows it to the source, back to the movie stores it came from. I, like some of you even, still have movies that were purchased when Blockbuster finally met its demise. Cases with Blockbusters stickers almost seem like they are going to become super rare collector items one day.
These stores allowed people to walk around, see friends, meet new people, talk about movies they loved, or consider new movies they thought might be their next favorite. Its this community or even family like feel that lends itself to the last major video rental store around: Family Video. This midwest chain of movie rental stores offers a wide variety of movie selections from new releases to classic and everything in between.
And if you couldn't tell by how I'm talking, heres a hint: I work there. Aside from my brown nosing, I do get a very in depth look at what a small video rental store serves for the people around the community, and truth be told, its a pretty interesting world.
First of all, I've never seen people give up their life stories to someone as quickly as they do to some of my bosses. Their seeming approachability may play a factor in this, but it just seems like it has to be something more. Why would people choose a video store to be there place to hangout in town.
I mean sure I get it you want to socialize, and yes we play movies inside, but if I were you, I'd be at McDonalds at 7 in the morning getting coffee and breakfast with the old guys. Can't beat free refills and food on demand.
But then I really think about it, and its the imagery you find around the store that truly strikes me. For people who grew up with some iconic images, for my parents generation it was The Breakfast Club and Weird Science and Ferris Bueller, etc. Seeing these movies can bring back positive memories and make you want to talk to anyone who is willing to listen.
More often times than not, this happens to be the person working behind the counter. Because believe it or not, we do actually very much enjoy our jobs. And its been my experience that almost everyone who works at Family Video does in fact watch movies so they know what they are talking about.
But take that for what its worth.
Finding common ground with complete strangers is always an exciting experience, and a movie store provides the spark to ignite conversation and make the store not just a hub of financial activity, but also general social activity.
So yes, they may be dated. Yes, you may have to get off your couch and go to the movie store. And yes if you forget to return the movies there are late fees. But look, if you were going to be that negative, you should have stopped reading this a long time ago.
Even if they are all of that, they still have a nostalgia that still continues to bring people back.
From the talkative movie store floor to the phones on silent dungeons of movie theaters, the change in the way people consume movies has to leave some concern that they are a short lived experience. After all, with products like Netflix sending "blockbuster" movies straight to streaming, you may not even have to buy tickets for opening night.
And how nice would it be to watch the new avengers movie in the comfort of your living room. This is essentially what the movie theater is up against. But movie theaters still have a draw.
The concept of sitting in a giant room and enjoying a movie together is still quite the novel concept. John C. Reilley recently did an interview for The Ringer podcast in which he talked about why exactly he wasn't a big fan of Netflix for that very reason:
"Well it's funny. I have a bit of a..... I don't know, Netflix and those larger streaming companies, it seems like.... I mean its starting to become at first it was you can go to the movies or stay home and watch second run movies, and now these streaming companies want to be the movie you are watching opening weekend, and they want to destroy the distribution business, they want to reset the clock, they want to eliminate theaters basically, thats Netflix... I don't know but that seems like their MO, not have people go to the movies at all."
Couldn't have said it better.
What to me started off as Netflix making a push for TV with shows like House of Cards, has turned into Netflix make a push for movies as well, with entries such as Bright, which Netflix hope will begin to make it more competitive with original movies.
While the communal experience of going to the movie theater is probably never going to go away, it remains to be seen how the streaming services will affect operations for theaters.
For more of the ringer podcast, follow this link. Conversation about Netflix and movie theaters begins at the 1:06:50 mark.
Does This Mean An End to The DVD?
I doubt it. The idea that studios would stop distributing physical copies of movies seems a little stunning and certainly out of character for a business that searches for money. It remains to be seen if Netflix's foray into original movies actually hurts movie attendance, and if any other new comers can begin making a dent in the movie theater business.
But with services like Amazon and Video on Demand through cable providing opportunities to rent movies with the click of a button, the need to rent movies may be negated by people filling their online movie catalogue rather than stocking the movie shelves at home.
So rather than watching Netflix all night, get out, at least for a bit, and enjoy the full experience movies have to offer.