Blockbuster will file for bankruptcy later this month, marking the official end of the era of bricks-and-mortar video stores. Esquiremourns what we've lost in the transition to Netflix's rent-by-mail system:
branded video-renting as a communal act. Whether you were a kid out
with friends, a teenager out with a date, or a parent out with the
family, you had some sense of mass belonging.
You never really knew what you'd find or experience when you stepped
inside. Sure, it would never likely be transgressive or especially
exotic—good luck in the foreign section—but there was value in the
sheer volume of titles, each of which must have entertained someone.
From the high-demand new release section to the unorganized row of
recent returns at the front desk—where customers plucked hot new
titles with the ferocity of lottery addicts—it was where we went to win.
Eleanor Barkhorn is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Education Channel.
She previously edited the Sexes and Entertainment channels. Before coming to The Atlantic, she was a reporter at the Delta Democrat Times in Greenville, Mississippi. She graduated from Princeton University, where she majored in American literature and wrote her senior thesis about Oprah's Book Club. For her first two years out of college, she taught high school English with the Teach For America program.