Blockbuster's Last Stand
A Super Bowl commercial prompts a look back at a lost world
Forgive me for popping a piece into your inbox so soon after I’ve popped a piece into your inbox. (That’s what she said!) I realize that’s the way of most Substackers, many of whom think the only undesirable opinion is an unexpressed one. However, I generally wish for readers to say, “Me want more” - many of my readers speak like Tarzan - rather than them saying, “Oh no, not that guy again.” (Deal with it, Mom.)
But I woke up to heartening news today. No, not that it’s Super Bowl Sunday. As I wrote last month in an appreciation of the dearly departed Franco Harris and the Steelers of my youth, once a football fanatic, my NFL fandom has cratered the last couple decades. I’ll watch the big game as always – I’m not a communist. And I do hope the Eagles’ Ron Jaworski is able to find Harold Carmichael deep, if I’ve not fallen too far behind. But what has me most excited is that Blockbuster (as in the long-lost video store) is running a Super Bowl commercial.
As CNN is reporting, the only remaining Blockbuster in the world in Bend, Oregon - down from over 9,000 stores during Blockbuster’s heyday - is running an ad. Though you won’t be able to watch it on television. You’ll have to either go to the store in Bend for a viewing party, watch it on Instagram at halftime, or rent a VHS copy of it for $2. (And you wonder why Blockbuster went out of business.) Here’s their teaser:
In any case, it made me pine for the old days, back when we used to change out of our pajama bottoms and go to physical places. And so I thought I’d reprint a piece I wrote exactly a decade ago, when Blockbuster was circling the drain. I decided to visit the last outlet in our metropolitan region, which was going out of business, and which was also the last video store I ever stood in before I had to revert to a life of crime/illegal streaming. (Only kidding, feds.) So as you prepare your patented Super Bowl seven-layer bean dip, make sure that the cupboard’s not bare of Gas-X, and hook yourself up to your Budweiser IV, here now is an appreciation of a lost world: the video store.