Here’s a story that encapsulates everything you need to know about Blockbuster Video: during a down moment in the initial, training shift for my part-time job at the Big Blue, I posed what seemed a fairly safe small-talk question to the store manager: So, what are your favorite movies?
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The text came from a buddy — a fellow film fan, but also one who had spent his first couple of years in New York as an employee there. “Just a heads-up,” he wrote, “World of Video is closing on 4/28 and they’re selling off their stock. May find some good deals.” I stopped in, and found a couple of bargains, but the victory was bittersweet: World of Video, the 29-year-old DVD and VHS rental joint in New York’s West Village, felt like the last of the Mohicans, the last man standing, and now it’s closing its doors for good. At risk of overdramatizing the thing, it feels like the end of an era — not just the shuttering of a genuinely great video store (seriously, they had stuff there you couldn’t find anywhere), but the end of the video store experience, which is, let’s face it, one of the few remaining vestiges of communal cinephilia.
A couple of weeks back, we talked about the gradual transformation of film culture from a group to an individual pursuit — the switch from the shared experience of discovering a great old movie at a theater or a college film society to the solitary experience of clicking a button on Netflix or iTunes and watching it in your living room. Home video usually took the blame for the death of the revival cinema, and while that’s a mostly accurate accusation, it’s also a slightly reductive one. While the video store may have killed the community of the movie house, a real video store — stocked with great flicks and a passionate crew — may have helped keep that sense of community alive.
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