Mourning The Loss of Blockbuster Video Stores

When I picked up Gail Sheehy’s book, Passages, Predictable Crises of Adult Life, at my neighborhood’s Little Free Library, I didn’t know what to expect. Reading the synopsis on the back of the book, I was intrigued. It almost sounded like the adult version of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. While the book was written in 1976, only once I finished it and did some research on Sheehy and the book did I learn it was named one of the 10 most influential books of our times by the Library of Congress. I feel like I was a bit late to this party but I’m so glad I stumbled upon the book and gave it a chance. If you’ve not already read it, I highly recommend it. It’s a fascinating look at what types of experiences, or passages, we all experience at some point during each decade of our lives. Keep in mind, Sheehy wrote this book in the mid-1970s so many of the examples focus on the mores of the time.

After I read it, I wondered: who put it in our Little Free Library? What’s this neighbor of mine like? Do I know this neighbor?

This whole experience reminded me of Blockbuster Video and why I miss it. I miss stumbling upon films I might never have considered had I not read their description. Sometimes I’d ask complete strangers hanging out in the aisles, looking for their own evening entertainment, if they’d seen whatever movie I was considering and if they’d recommend it. Sure, you can read descriptions flipping through Netflix and Amazon Prime or whatever your streaming service preference, but often these are curated for you based on past viewing decisions.

That’s not to say I didn’t choose some bad films, but the whole experience of going to the video shop, perusing the selections, talking with others in the store, choosing one and watching it was still fun. It’s like the experience of going to an independent bookstore and reading the backs of books you’ve not heard of because they’re not on any sort of bestseller list but they’re still outstanding books. Or asking the bookshop owner for a recommendation based on a book you enjoyed.

I’m all for advancements and technology and all that. But I feel as though we’re losing some real tangible opportunities to strengthen our communities when businesses close their brick and mortar businesses for the more efficient and cost-effective online presence.

I miss my local Blockbuster Video and the opportunities to choose a movie based on a random person’s recommendation. At least I have our Little Free Libraries and the opportunity to chat up with neighbors about the books they’re dropping off and recommending.