Whenever I go home for Christmas, I get the usual run down of what businesses have closed on the High Street. Usually, this is accompanied by some kind of confusing commentary...
"The shoe shop is closing down, and it's either going to be a Cafe Nero or Peter Andre"
"A... what? A Peter Andre?"
"Yes! A Peter Andre!"
"PETER ANDRE IS OPENING A CAFE!"
But this year, there was a genuinely sad one in the mix. Blockbuster has finally closed its doors.
Though this has been coming for a while, it's sad for a couple of reasons. First off, I used to work there. In summers between university terms, and then for a spell after graduation to get out of my overdraft. It was one of those jobs you look back on with real fondness - I never really had to do anything, I worked with my best friend, and we got TEN FREE RENTALS A WEEK. Plus once, someone taught me that if you opened the box of milkybar buttons too aggressively, then all of the top bags would split, meaning they went into the spoils box behind the desk, where I would dig in by the fistful. They copped onto this soon enough, alas.
We'd missed the glory years, where you could put a film on the television screens, and had to settle for the disc of trailers, which would play on a loop every fifteen minutes. I knew every trailer off by heart, from Coach Carter to The Departed.
We had frequent celebrity guests, too. Jordan and Peter Andre lived nearby, and used to come in regularly to pay their astronomical fines. Jordan was a slightly scary creature, but Peter was a lovable puppy, telling us how much he loved the new American Pie 17.
We'd climb into the Drop Box, curl up tight, and yell "Thank you!" when a disc was dropped in. One time, a kid put a frog in there. Actually, that wasn't funny, I was furious. But it did allow me to partake in one of my favourite hobbies - giving out to a bunch of kids.
I have even fonder memories from the years prior to working there. We used to spend hours picking a movie for a sleepover, or a rainy afternoon. Each term that ended was marked with a half day, so at 12.30pm we'd hightail it out of school and race to the diner (yeah, our town had a DINER) before mosying down to Blockbuster's to pick out a DVD. It would take us hours. We'd scan every title in there, each fighting our corner (with a few people whining "I don't care, just pick one, ANY ONE")
Then we'd get a box of microwave popcorn, go to someone's house, and debate about who would have the serious responsibility of returning it on time. It was glorious.
If it sounds like I'm drunk with nostalgia, it's because I am.
Even when I was working there, the writing was on the wall. They were bought out by Xtravision, and tried to deny that the online boom was happening. No one would want to watch films online, they said. They still want to come into a store, they said.
Alas, they did not.
It's a sad sight to see, an empty shop. I called past it today, and started to softly sing "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" but stopped swiftly when a confused looking woman walked past me.
I couldn't quite understand why the lights were on - surely that will be a bit of an unnecessary bill? I don't think the empty shelves need to be so sadly illuminated. God love them - poor decision making even after they're closed down.
It's with a heavy heart that I wish them farewell. And as the film of (almost) the same title was the last to be rented from their American stores, I'll play you out with this number...
The last BLOCKBUSTER rental 11/9 Hawaii 11PM @ThisIsTheEnd #BlockbusterMemories @Sethrogen @JamesFrancoTV @JonahHill http://t.co/RsXABlqfzL
— Blockbuster (@blockbuster) November 11, 2013