Spencer Kornhaber: So the news just broke that Blockbuster is closing all 300 of its remaining, corporately run retail stores. My first reaction was "good riddance," followed by reflexive guilt—all those jobs lost! My brother worked there for a long time! And now I’m just feeling nostalgic sadness. Is that weird?
Eleanor Barkhorn: I am experiencing some very mixed emotions myself. On the one hand, Blockbuster was an essential institution growing up. What would slumber parties and sick days and summer vacations have been like without the blue boxes?
Also, there was a particular excitement to walking into the store with the movie you wanted to rent in mind, and wondering, "Will it be there? Or will it be all rented out?" I remember waiting WEEKS for Clueless to be available at the Blockbuster near my house.
So, that's the nostalgic sadness part for me.
Kornhaber: Right, yeah. I have that too. Heading to Blockbuster with middle-school friends and arguing over which Bond movie to rent, etc.
But also there was this unique feeling that came with the type of browsing it encouraged. People lament the death of bookstores as places to hang out, read, have serendipitous encounters and chance finds, and the retail video store was a strange other version of that. You really were judging these things entirely by their covers. I remember being luridly fascinated by all the boxes in the horror section. Fraidy childhood me would never want to watch a slasher, but I particularly remember the Hellraiser cover as a terrifying staple of visits to Blockbuster.