Internet replacing outdated stores
Those who lament the disappearance of the video rental store tend to see it as the end of social film viewing, but such claims wither under the slightest scrutiny. When multiple game consoles permit Netflix Instant to stream directly to one’s television, when both rentals and streaming are available in extraordinary abundance over the Internet, when the cables necessary to link up a laptop to a plasma screen television have become absurdly cheap and easy to use, one cannot plausibly claim that the opportunity to view movies and television programs communally has vanished.
Some complain about the lack of selection on a service like Netflix Instant. An aphorism concerning glass houses springs to mind, for video stores are inherently limited by being physical spaces into which only so many movies may be crammed at a time. Compare this to, say, Amazon’s streaming rental service, in which very nearly any film in Amazon’s catalogue can be rented for instant online streaming. Or consider the partnership between Hulu Plus and the Criterion Collection, which allows members with a paid subscription to access an enormous archive of the greatest foreign and arthouse films in history. It would be amusing to watch a video store attempt a similar feat.
Rental stores were born out of the VHS revolution, but like VHS they have been thoroughly outclassed. Some may have happy memories associated with video stores, but there are more efficient ways of wallowing in nostalgia. Technology and infrastructure improve, and inventing a bygone golden age will do nothing but blind us to the fact that we are living in one right now.
— Stefan Melnyk
Rentals bring viewers together
Is there anything sadder than a video store in 2013? It may be hard to believe, but several of them still exist. Those feeling nostalgic can consult Google for a (miniature) list of locations in New York, including Alan’s Alley Video in Chelsea and Mr. Video III in Brooklyn. The question arises of why anyone would bother seeking out a video store in an age of Netflix, but the unfortunate reality is renting a video offers an experience that streaming never can — the experience of actually enjoying a movie with friends.
Of course, Netflix can be enjoyed among friends, as long as your group is willing to cramp around a computer screen for two hours and your computer has decent speakers, or else listening to the movie will be a chore. Alternatively, you can hook Netflix up to your television, except not all televisions are compatible with Netflix — not to mention the fact that Netflix has only a limited range of offerings.
If we want to enjoy movies, we have to do it Netflix’s way, and Netflix is less about the group experience and more about hiding away in a dark room as we indulge ourselves in their offerings of critically-reviled horror films and romantic comedies. Gone are the days of personal recommendations, running through the racks and making it an actual event to go to the video store. The remaining stores are a glimmer of what true movie fans have always known — all movies are better with a friend.
— Jeremy Grossman
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