Business Wire is reporting that Blockbuster is closing the last of its video rental stores in the United States and is ending its DVD rental by mail operation. It is another example of how modern Internet technology is ending old business models.
Once, a long time ago, one could go to a Blockbuster or one of its competitors and rent a video tape, Betamax at one time, but then VHS and play it in one’s VCR for a fixed period of time, a couple of days to a week, before returning it. It was like checking out a book from the library but for movies and TV shows. Later, as technology evolved, DVDs and Blurays were rented out.
Inevitably, with broadband becoming more common and computer power and storage capacity becoming greater, the idea of downloading or live streaming a movie or TV show has become the preferred way to get instant gratification. Most cable companies have an on demand service that allows one to watch a variety of movies and TV shows anytime one wants, some for free, others for less than the price of a movie ticket. Combined with modern big screens, the experience combines the visual impact of going to a cinema with the convenience and lack of aggravation of staying home.
To be sure one can still rent a DVD from other venues, from the Red Box or from a number of other mail in venues. And one can buy a copy of one’s favorite movie or season of a TV show often for the cost of two people going to the movie or less.
All of this has a downside, as can be imagined. A number of popular titles may not be available for instant downloading or streaming. People without a good Internet connection or who refuse to pay for cable do not have access to the brave new world of instant movies. But this too will change, sooner or later.
In the meantime, a whole generation will grow up finding the idea of having to leave the house to see a movie to be just a little bit unusual.