No industry moves faster and takes more casualties than the tsunami that is technology. Seeing firsthand how entertainment platforms evolve and change entire generation’s habits can be an enlightening experience.
When I was 16 years old, I had the best job of all time. I worked at our town’s Movie Warehouse. It was an open space filled with rows upon rows of VHS movies and video games. Having this job helped me to understand that it is, in fact, possible to enjoy working. As this was my first experience adhering to a set work schedule and punching a time card, I thought I had hit the jackpot of career choices.
I was the youngest employee by ten years, but I was knowledgeable of pop references and movie trivia well beyond my age. I’ve always had an affinity for film and storytelling, so having the opportunity to get paid while being in my element was just a bonus.
What I really enjoyed at this job was the banter I had with fellow movie lovers, both employees and customers alike. We would talk about new releases or what we had recently finished watching. We’d travel down the rabbit hole of personal theories or debunk what we believed to be garbage. We would play the games of “Who would you cast as this character?” or “Which remake is really better?” This would go on until a disapproving customer would look at us sideways while waiting to be checked out.
In addition to earning a paycheck every other week, I had what I believed to be the golden ticket—free rentals every night. As a 16-year-old, I watched everything I could get my hands on. New releases, classics, foreign films and anything I’d heard of. I’d devour at every opportunity I had. This was an education unto itself. Although I wasn’t drawn to the filmmaking nuances, I loved the interweaving stories and narratives movies offered.
I worked there for two years, taking me to high school graduation and into the next chapter of my life. I decided something at that early age, as silly or half-cocked as it sounds; when I retired, I would spend three to four days a week working at a video store, spending my later years in the atmosphere that I loved. I made this agreement with myself as to not forget that, yes, you can actually love what you do and enjoy going to work.
As the years progressed, I started to see trends change and people’s entertainment habits evolve. Films available on ON-DEMAND became popular. Netflix started to boom with their home delivery platform. PlayStation and X-box started to offer online film rentals. The market changed before my eyes. Living in Indianapolis at the time, I saw Blockbusters close down one by one. I was amazed to see the transformation of something that I felt so strongly about. The days of leisurely pursuing the new release wall were over. I was now forced to scroll through options on my TV, iPad, or that colorful box outside my local grocery store.
Rarely do we see the demise of something so fast. We see clues that something is bound for trouble or may not be sustainable, but rarely are we blindsided by such a fast paced development. Technology came in like a speeding bullet and wiped out video rental stores over night. The platforms changed and people no longer had to physically travel to rent a movie. Convenience was once again king.
Every generation following mine will miss out on the movie renting experience. They’ll never be in a physical space with other movie enthusiasts, reading the backs of boxes for synopses, and they definitely won’t be writing their names on the backs of movie posters to stake their future claims. There will be no need to call ahead and have someone you know “hold” your movie for you. And don’t worry; you won’t have late fees as your rental will just magically disappear from your device.
Watching the demise of one of my passions taught me a timeless lesson. Nothing stays the same. In every capacity of life, there is constant movement and propulsion. Observing the advancement of entertainment and convenience solidified that one will always be trying to improve or elevate the current model. I’ll always have fond memories of afternoons in Movie Warehouse. The industry I worked in wasn’t broken or lacking in fundamental appeal, it just happened to be a casualty of unfathomable technology.
I’m still frustrated that these movie rental locations won’t be around when I decide to retire. Those plans can be thrown out the window. For my sake, I hope movie theatres can hold on another 30 years, as I know someone who would make a wonderful ticket taker.