April 14, 2010 § Leave a Comment
The neighborhood video store is dying. In Grove City, PA where I go to college, two stores have closed in the past year. The first was Showtime Video, a small, dilapidated rental store that had just as many video tapes as it did DVDs. Now, the local Movie Gallery is in its death throes and will be closing soon. Recently, I paid a visit to this Movie Gallery with one of my friends because, like any good cinephile, a movie store closing means inexpensive movies.
Upon entering the Movie Gallery, I noticed that it was probably the busiest I had ever seen in the past three years. I began browsing, predominantly focusing my search in the foreign and drama sections. As I was looking through the movies, I overheard one of the employees talking to a man who had asked why the store was closing.
As she spoke about Netflix and Red Box spelling the demise of the video store I felt a twinge of sadness. It wasn’t sadness at the loss of another video store, but sadness for this woman who now must find another job. She continued to talk about why she thought that the video store still had value in this age of technology and convenience. These were some of her reasons, which I think deserve an answer:
1) They don’t have the same selection.
2) You can’t ask for movie suggestions from a Red Box.
3) There is a lack of human interaction with these ways of obtaining movies.
1) Well, this is simply untrue. Red Box may not have quite the same selection as a stocked video store, but I guarantee you that the local video store has nowhere near the selection of Netflix. As a previous Netflix member, who will soon resume his membership, and someone with rather obscure movie tastes I can tell you that Netflix has had every movie I wanted. Movie Gallery simply can’t compete with that selection.
As far as Red Box goes, it is a simple service that is not for those looking for older or more obscure movies. It is there to provide easy access to the newest movies at a reasonable price, which it does well. If you are looking for the latest foreign film or indie flick chances are it won’t be in the video store or in a Red Box.
2) I think this assertion has more credence with the older generation than with anyone under 30. I have never gone into a video store and asked an employee for a movie suggestion for two reasons. One, I am probably going to the video store for a specific movie that I have heard of from a friend or online, and have researched it to see if it is something I would enjoy. Two, the internet is a much better way for finding out if you would enjoy a movie than asking a random person who you don’t know. What if they love mediocre action movies and that simply isn’t your taste? Most people now use the internet to determine whether or not they want to watch a film.
3) And here we arrive on the last reason given by this woman, and the most valid. Is technology taking over our lives so much that we are removing the human factor from every facet of our lives? In the future will every interaction I have be with a box or a faceless person over the internet? Is it worth sacrificing some efficiency and convenience to keep some modicum of human dignity in the way I conduct my everyday life?
I think Up in the Air (2009, Reitman) touched on this very aspect of our modern life. Playing a jetsetter who flies around the country to fire people face-to-face, Ryan Bingham(George Clooney) is on the verge of being replaced by technology that will allow his company to fire people over the internet. This will save the company money and make them more efficient, but at the same time it takes away the dignity of a human interaction for those being fired. The company sends the creator of this technology Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) with him on what appears to be his final tour of firings. Natalie soon learns that there is a difference between firing someone face-to-face than over a computer screen, and this is driven home for her when her boyfriend breaks up with her via text message.
I don’t want to be a part of a society that eschews personal interaction and relies solely on technology to communicate. As life moves forward and technology continues to make things more efficient we must be careful to not completely condemn advances in technology, while striking a balance that prioritizes personal interaction.
In the end, it’s not a question of the ability of small town video stores to compete with Netflix and Red Box, because honestly Netflix and Red Box both have advantages over the likes of Movie Gallery and Blockbuster, but a question of how I interact with people. Am I striving to be personal with people or would I rather sit at my computer and communicate through Facebook, Twitter and email? Personal interactions with people need to be a priority in my life.
As for Movie Gallery, may it rest in peace.