After Nearly Three Decades, Blockbuster Goes Bust
I'm sure you heard the news by now that Blockbuster, the one-time reigning champ of the home video rental business, is finally closing for good. After winding down for years with increased competition from rivals such as Netflix and Redbox, all Blockbuster stores will be closed as of January 2014.
During the heyday of home video rentals, I didn't have access to a Blockbuster store. The nearest one was almost an hour away, so my VHS rental choices were limited to the local video stores in the town where I lived. What this meant for me--and as I'm sure it meant for others who lived in remote rural locations--is that Blockbuster represented the best of VHS rental selections. The video stores nearest to me were able to keep up with the high-profile theatrical releases of the 80s and 90s and they introduced me to low-budget curiosities such as Equinox and The Flesh Eaters, but their overall selections of films from the 1930s up to the 70s were extremely poor. Thus, if I wanted to familiarize myself with the works of noted horror film talents such as Ray Harryhausen, Val Lewton and Vincent Price, I would have to go to Blockbuster.
The closing of Blockbuster represents the end of one form of film distribution and its inherent limitations, so I'm kind of glad to see it go. Newer services such as Netflix, Redbox or Hulu have their limitations as well and I've noticed that some films that aren't being carried by those services can sometimes be found on YouTube (particularly foreign horror movies and American made-for-TV horror films). Nevertheless, digital distribution through the Internet and formats such as DVD and Blu-ray have made life so much easier for film buffs--particularly horror film fans such as me.
Regardless, I can't let this kind of milestone that's so closely attached to the VHS format go without celebrating one of the most memorable aspects of VHS rentals: the colorful and gaudy box cover artwork. Click below to see a selection of VHS cover art that I pulled from sources such as VHS Collector and VHS Wasteland.
Here's to you Blockbuster and the VHS rental business you championed. Without you, so much trashy stuff would never have made it into unsuspecting homes across America and for that I salute you. Click here and here to see other retrospectives I've done on the VHS rental business.