Things come. Things go.
That’s kind of the nature of a modern-day world that has experienced unprecedented technological advancements and a connected global economy that inspires inovation from all corners of the Earth. Capitalism expands the market because we continue to improve and enhance the products available to consumers, and there is a non-stop race to be the first to get to “the next big thing.”
It’s an exciting time to be alive in many ways.
We’ve watched the rotary phone seated on an end table transform into a push-button phone mounted to the kitchen wall, then watched with awe as they became “cordless” and we could walk around the house, engaged in conversation — as long as we remembered to keep it charged. That gave way to the cellular phone, which was roughly the size of an armadillo, and eventually morphed into the device many of us keep in our pockets or purses today, which we use to text, surf the Internet, share all-too-much on social media and take pictures of ourselves sticking out our lips to look like self-absorbed ducks.
Many of those older pieces of equipment have found their ways into various dumps and electronic recycling spots over the years to make way for “the next big thing.” Other devices and services have simply changed to conform with the times, maintaining a significant spot in our economy and consiousness by providing us, well, what we need or want.
A lot of us remember Western Union being a way to somewhat-expediently send messages to people in far away places. Then it became a method to send $30 to a college student who needs to do laundry and grab a pizza with his or her friends. Now it is a convenient way for people to pay their bills who might not have a credit card or bank account, along with its earlier uses. The company has judged the climate around it, adjusted and has continued to hold a prominent position because it has evolved with the times and found a way to meet a need.
Unfortunately, some businesses just haven’t been able to withstand the changes around us as easily.
Growing up in the ’80s, one of life’s simple pleasures was going to the local video store on a Friday night, either with friends or family. The entire world was open to us as we wandered up and down the aisles, running into school friends who were there doing the same thing and arguing amongst ourselves over what movies were coming home with us. Sure, we all forgot to “Be kind and rewind” sometimes, and late fees for returning movies past the agreed date were right around the $10,000-a-day and your-first-born range, but we had access to movies, Wrestlemanias and classic boxing matches that we chose to watch, when we wanted to watch them. It was a major battle won in the war for our entertainment freedom.
Eventually, those small stores mostly gave way to bigger video store companies, and it seems like one day, it just happened — they all became Blockbuster Video properties.
It was sad to see the smaller guys go away. We got to know the store owners, and enjoyed the “Employee Picks” stand, with each of us gravitating to the tastes of one employee or another. But Blockbuster brought something entirely different to the table in terms of caché and access. The stores carried remarkable amounts of movies, candies and video games. They had multiple locations, offering you freedom with your membership, and the ability to track down hard-to-find movies in their other locales.
Blockbuster was the big dog — our prime method of finding the entertainment we wanted for a perfect night of “nesting” on the couch was the store with the trademark blue-and-gold sign, and that sign was everywhere across these fruited plains, and elsewhere.
On March 31 of this year, in a little more than a week, a Blockbuster store in Perth, Australia, will permanently close its doors. That will leave a store in Bend, Ore., as the last Blockbuster Video. Anywhere. On the planet.
Redbox kiosks, reasonable prices to purchase movies for collections, pay-per-view offerings and streaming services have pushed the former icon into the history books. Blockbuster declared bankruptcy in 2010, according to an Associated Press (AP) article. By 2014, all the corporate-owned stores had shut their doors, leaving locally-owned franchises to fight it out alone.
And, now, only one remains. So... why?
“It’s pure stubbornness, for one. We didn’t want to give in,” said general manager Sandi Harding. “We did everything we could to cut costs and keep ourselves relevant.”
The store’s computer system must be rebooted using floppy disks. Employees write out membership cards by hand because the dot-matrix printer broke. They are surviving laregly on curious tourists coming to take selfies. But they continue to keep plugging along — they recently ordered T-shirts that read “The Last Blockbuster on the Planet.”
It is indeed the end of an era. But one that will be celebrated with nostalgia. A strange ending to a “next best thing.”