This is apparently a few days old, but via the Guardian Film blog, I just came across this great Onion video, in which tourists go on “historical” tours of an old Blockbuster video. The stores hire actors to play employees and customers, with tourists taking pictures and expressing amazement that people had to go through so much effort to watch a movie (one “customer” describes driving six miles twice a week, just to watch a movie). And while it’s pretty humorous to see Blockbuster reduced to the subject of such a gag, it’s also a reminder of how much the practices of viewing movies at home have changed.
Living in Fayetteville, where there are no independent video stores (I’d likely have to drive an hour up to Raleigh to rent a movie with subtitles), it’s difficult not to embrace mail-order video services such as Netflix and GreenCine or video-on-demand services such as IFC First Take. I certainly miss the great independent video stores I used to frequent in other cities–Atlanta’s Movies Worth Seeing (which had a great collection of B-movies and an auteurist bent) and Champaign-Urbana’s That’s Rentertainment–both of which served, for me at least, as social sites as well as businesses. In that context, the Onion clip reminded me of Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind and its whimsical nostalgia for locally-owned video stores and the community of eccentrics that congregated there (and according to Danny Leigh, the Guardian blogger, there is a similar video store scene in Will Smith’s I Am Legend). Not sure I have any grand conclusions here, but I find this video store nostalgia interesting.