My how the time flies. I started writing the first part of this post on Aug. 26, 2009 but never published it. In looking through unfinished or half-formed drafts, this one seemed worth buffing up and putting out in the blogosphere.
It occurred to me that I, and others about my age (29), witnessed the birth and (for all intents and purposes) death of an entire business model: The video rental store.
As a young lad of ages still measured in single-digits, I remember going to the candy/sundry store across the street from my best friend's house — The Whistle Stop. I loved looking at the covers of the videos for rent. The horror films especially seemed to feature covers of nubile young women tantalizing to the soon-to-be adolescent eye; the same was true while tromping sullenly through the grocery store (the whole time thinking: why is this taking so long, mom?!), where half an aisle was devoted to video rental.
Once I finally got my hands on the aforementioned Nintendo Entertainment System (a.k.a. original Nintendo, a.k.a. the NES) we even rented games at the gas station down the hill from my childhood home. They had a small section of wall in one corner devoted to VHS tapes and NES games. (Unless I'm mistaken, the rack of magazines even MORE enticing than VHS covers was positioned nearby, too.)
That gas station no longer exists, but the memory of the two attendants staring slack-jawed at two 10-year-olds after my best friend asked, "Excuse me, does this game feature two-player, simultaneous, head-to-head action?" in reference to "Ikari Warriors 2" will live on (FYI: Despite this video, it does).
I graduated to the homegrown, locally-owned video rental store chain as well as the expanded offerings at the area supermarkets (the second Price Chopper in the area rented videos for years, and the Wegmans had a nice operation until early this decade). Most of my rentals were video games, though the occassional movie made it into the mix.
Then the national chains started making inroads into my area, about the time I came up to the Capital Region for college (1998). We all know, of course, that these days brick-and-mortar Blockbusters and Hollywood Video stores are practically dinosaurs, extinction coming in the form of cable and satellite TV On-Demand services, Netflix by-mail movie or online streaming video.
July 29, 2010 -- My wife and I haven't rented a movie in ... well, I have no idea how long. We didn't rent movies all that often anyhow, but now it's impossible; there are no brick-and-mortar stores around us, and we never bother with those Red Box machines in the supermarkets. We've talked about signing up for Netflix, and my best friend (yes, the same one from the gas station) demonstrated the Netflix stream over the Nintendo Wii. So that's a possibility for us, too. It's just a question of how much use we'd get out of it.
As I brace myself for 30, it doesn't help that I can say in my best old-timer voice, "I remember when I had to rent movies on VHS at gas stations and supermarkets! You kids and your on-demand streams and online multiplayer gaming! You don't know how good you have it!"