I recently heard that the last Blockbuster Video Store was closing in Sydney. My kids asked, “what’s Blockbuster?” How can it be that in my life time I have seen Blockbuster become a thing, and then not a thing and I’m not even forty yet?
I tried to tell them all about the novelty of video shops, but I couldn’t properly explain why it was such a big deal to people my age, they just didn’t get it.
I tried to explain that for me, going to the video shop as a kid was an absolute treat. I couldn’t accurately capture what it was like, and suddenly found myself in a deep pit of “back in my day”, and I’ve felt nostalgic ever since. These kids have access to unlimited movies, shows, and clips- this concept is so foreign to them, it’s impossible for them to understand.
We do have a video rental shop where we live, and it’s still a bit of a novelty- only just. This shop is gripping on for dear life, and funnily enough it seems to have a pretty steady flow of DVD renters.
My kids are massive consumers, despite my best efforts they love nothing more than wasting money on something they don’t need. Those video booth thingies in shopping centres are so appealing, even though half of those movies are available on Netflix or to rent online- they just want to get something concrete they can hold in their little hands. They want something for my money. Then they want to forget about it and experience the screeching from me when I find the overdue DVD wedged under the lounge a week after it’s due back.
But even when I do surrender to their pleas, usually five days into the school holidays or after a run of bad weather, they’re lucky to make it through a whole movie.
Movies were such a novelty when we were kids. I remember going to the AV room at primary school to watch a TV show, and in later years, movies. My Grandmother had a VCR when I was younger, and we’d go around on a Friday night and watch a movie. Then we got our own player and we thought we were pretty fancy. We would have friends over to watch movies, it was a thing. And when we were older it was code for going to a friends house and passing out in a back paddock somewhere after drinking whatever we could get our hands on. Basically movies were a big deal.
I’ve witnessed a change in movie watching behaviour since my eldest son started watching movies compared to my four year old. He would be really into a movie and watch it over and over, but my youngest has no interest. Movies are just another thing now, they’re not special. They’re so accessible that it has taken away some of the shine. Going to the cinema is a different thing altogether. I’m talking about sitting at home and watching a movie. My boys struggle to sit through the whole thing and there’s a little piece of me that is totally devastated by this end of an era.
I considered that perhaps it was the experience that was lacking. Often I throw a movie on when I have things to do and I need to buy an hour or two of peace. I rarely sit with them, we don’t make a ritual of it. It’s not special. So I set out to change all of that.
We recently met together as a family to watch a movie on Netflix. We picked it during the day, we made pizzas and then sat down to watch the movie. It seemed like we had become the feature of a family movie ourselves, but don’t worry, it didn’t last.
Within twenty minutes there was movement. The middle boy, the wriggliest of all three wandered off into another room and came back with some lego. I can handle that. Then the third went to get some pillows to build a nest. Fine.
I could handle the up and down, the restlessness was a hint that the movie may not have been their cup of tea. But that became even more apparent when one of them grabbed the remote and started skipping through parts of the movie. What?
I was the only one who seemed to be bothered by his skimming strategy, “what are you doing?”
“This is boring. This part is dumb. I’ll get to a good part.” He acted as if he was doing me a favour. What about the storyline? The teacher in me needed to see the narrative play out, the rest of my family seemed happy to watch it as more of a make your own adventure style of movie.
As a teacher I’ve witnessed the novelty of movie watching become a popular activity, then into a boring, almost torturous event. Once hailed as a cool teacher for my impressive range of DVDs kept in my cupboard waiting for the call from a rainy day lunchtime or an end of term treat, I’ve had to surrender to the changes that are happening around me. My DVD collection is long gone, and my Netflix subscription is wasted on the children of today. Offering to break the monotony ofa long run of wet weather lunchtimes with a classic G rated movie is often met with groans and “do we have to?”.
But I do live in hope, the popularity of Frozen and Moana indicate that there is still hope. Having children know every single word must mean that they are capable of sitting and watching and enjoying- without skipping all the boring bits.
There are just so many options now. Besides Netflix and renting movies from iTunes, children now have access to just about anything they like on the internet. They can access the latest releases, incredible documentaries, reruns of their favourite shows. Even with all of those choices, most kids I know would prefer to watch other kids on YouTube, or families playing in their backyard.
I think I will lose the plot if they start watching other children watch movies- then I know we really have hit rock bottom.
Farewell Video Stores, thanks for the memories.