Blockbuster is dead and we’re all to blame. As I struggle to wipe away my tears, looking down at my now redundant Blockbuster membership card, I’m greeted by all the wonderful memories we had together. Eating week-old overpriced pick ‘n’ mix. Staring blankly at the new releases section and wondering when there will actually be new releases there. And of course trawling through the hundreds of horror films that never made it to cinemas. I may joke, but I really am going to miss it.
Blockbuster have announced that they will be closing all 264 stores before Christmas; this seems sad but inevitable. The company initially filed bankruptcy in 2011 so it came as no real shock. With this announcement I began thinking about why there was no way Blockbuster could survive and what the future holds for watching film. With HMV also falling into administration recently, it’s clear that something is poisoning the DVD industry. It’s well known that the internet is the new home for watching movies, but the statistics on illegal downloading are really phenomenal.
It’s reported that 35.2% of illegally downloaded material is film, second only to pornography which edges first place at 35.8%. Television is way off the mark at 14.5%. Not particularly surprising, but the repercussions of those statistics are really quite shocking. In 2011, illegal downloading cost the music industry $2.7 billion*. None of these statistics take into account streaming, as it doesn’t involve any downloading. So with the rise of online streaming and illegal downloading, it’s a genuine surprise that Blockbuster are only now announcing their closure.
The curtain really came down on Blockbuster when companies such as Netflix became a staple in every home. Netflix, Amazon Rental and Love Film are the legal alternative to illegal downloading and streaming, charging a monthly fee. These services are particularly useful, as rather than having to drive down to your local store and hunt amongst the many B movies, you can make a choice from your bed. The films are accessible online or can be delivered to your door. Unsurprisingly, these services have proved particularly appealing to students. However, the browsing was part of Blockbuster’s charm. You’d stand around and stare at all the films with no real idea of what you want but end up finding some absolute gems. A particular favourite of mine was ‘Ninja Tiger 2‘, a Japanese film with English subtitles that looked like it had been filmed in someone’s back garden. Despite being totally appalling, I learnt a lot about honour and chasing your dreams. Admittedly my housemates and I switched it off after the first twenty minutes, but I feel like I was enriched by those twenty minutes. We did also rent the first one but the disc turned out to be blank, much to my disappointment. Where else would you get so many disappointments in such a short space of time?
So what does the future hold for watching film? Who really knows? Well, most people do actually. Everything will eventually be online. This is how people will watch films, illegally or legally. Maybe that’ll lead to the end of the cinema industry as well, which is already crumbling under financial strain. Our parents had the Berlin wall, but we might get the fall of the Odeon.
People might ask, who really cares that Blockbuster is gone? Well I do. Some may say this is a self-indulgent article about my love for Blockbuster, and they are right. The blood is on my hands for it’s demise as I too used the internet as my main entertainment source, never thinking about the damage I was doing. The guilt is truly overwhelming. Some Blockbuster stores have survived; there are rumours of stores remaining open in Texas and Alaska, a utopia that sounds too good to be true.
So go home, open your DVD collection and hold them close. When you next go to the cinema embrace the usher that serves you. You never know when they might be gone.