Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm an Analog Player in a Digital World

Since I don’t count the four days I worked at Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant, I will always remember my first job at the video rental store across the street from my parent’s house back in Virginia (I kept getting yelled at for taking too long to butter the buns at Chick-fil-A, so I had to move on).

In the history of a job being right up someone’s proverbial alley, that job for me is up there on the list; and I already know it was probably the most enjoyable source of employment I will ever experience.

That would be like me to peak professionally at 16 years old.

When I first started working there, it was just a mom and pop store but was shortly thereafter bought out by a chain. I don’t remember the exact sequence but in some order during my three summers there, we were known as Video Stars, Video Update, and Moovies (with a complete cow theme). I always liked being associated with the little guy going up against the big, bad Blockbusters of the world.

But now I’m even sad to see that the Blockbusters are struggling in this modern economic climate.

Forget about the mom and pops.

It felt like a punch to the stomach while my Wife and I were in Orlando a few weeks ago and I saw that a local Blockbuster was closing down. It felt like the knockout blow to the face when I got back to Denver and saw that the Blockbuster closest to our apartment was following suit (and apparently close to a thousand more will be closing down before the end of 2010).

I get why it’s happening and I know that I’ve been a part of the problem.

With too many convenient and cheaper options out there, actual physical video rental stores are having a nightmare of a time trying to keep up.

I’ll be the first to first to admit that I got caught up in the Redbox craze (in case you’ve been receiving your mail under a rock for the past couple of years, Redbox is a free standing kiosk that you can find at places like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart and you can rent movies for just a dollar a day) because it was now worth it to skip an iffy looking film for $10 at the theater and take a chance on it through Redbox for a buck.

I will watch anything for a dollar.

Well, anything not directed by Stephen Sommers.

But thanks to greedy – and suffering – Hollywood studios, it’s getting more difficult to find your favorite movie titles there. Basically what’s happened is that the studios are upset that Redbox is cutting into their DVD sales so much (and it is) that they’ve put a delay on when Redbox can get access to new releases. They certainly underestimated how little Blu Ray would help – and I have a Blu Ray player so I can say with a certain authority that there’s just not enough difference from DVD to Blu Ray to make the leap. We all understood the jump from VHS to DVD, but you want me to spend $35 on a Blu Ray disc because it has blue-violet laser as opposed to a red laser?

Sorry, thanks for playing.

I know a lot of people that use Netflix (in case you’ve been at Rip Van Winkle’s slumber party, Netflix is an online system where you can select what movies you want and they will mail them to you and you can get as many as you want for just a flat rate per month) but that’s not even close to a plausible option for someone like me. As I am the king of “in the mood viewing” there is no way I could place an order than wait even 15 minutes for it to be mailed to me. When I want to see something, I have to watch it right then or else I won’t care about it the next day.

What is someone like me supposed to do now?

I posed this question to my friends on Facebook and via e-mail this past week and I was really grateful for the amount of responses I got in return. Unfortunately none of them were helpful. Most had something to do with streaming and computers and getting clearance from top secret government agencies.

I’m not doing any of that.

I’m not old by any means, but I guess I am old school. I like going to a physical location and looking at the covers of the DVDs and reading the information on the back. One of my favorite memories from childhood is the Friday nights where my parents would take me to McDonald’s for a happy meal, then going to pick up a VHS tape at the local video store.

Not that it was a big deal, but it was a way for us to spend time together. It was a memory.

What am I going to do with my children someday?

“Hey kids, make sure you put your movie in the internet queue so it can be downloaded to your eyelids tomorrow.”

So forgive me if I’m hanging on to the past here. Just like Roman told Danny and Rusty in Ocean’s 13, “you’re analog players living in a digital world,” and I think I might be as well.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go out and try to find the next nearest Blockbuster for this week's new releases.

I might even get some Chick-fil-A for the drive.

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