Op-Ed

Tech loss: Seen this movie before?

Jim Jackson
Jim Jackson

No industry moves faster and takes more casualties than the tsunami that is technology, as evidenced by the recent article about the closing of the last video rental store in Lexington.

When I was 16, I worked at our town’s Movie Warehouse, an open space filled with rows upon rows of VHS movies and video games. Having this job helped me to understand that it is, in fact, possible to enjoy working.

I was the youngest employee by 10 years, but I was knowledgeable about pop references and movie trivia. I’ve always had an affinity for film and storytelling, so having the opportunity to get paid while being in my element was just a bonus.

What I really enjoyed was the banter I had with fellow movie lovers, employees and customers alike. We would talk about new releases or what we had recently watched. We’d travel down the rabbit hole of personal theories or debunk what we believed to be garbage. We would play the games of “Who would you cast as this character?” or “Which remake is really better?” This would go on until a disapproving customer would look at us sideways while waiting to be checked out.

In addition to earning a paycheck, I had the golden ticket: free rentals every night. I watched everything I could get my hands on. New releases, classics, foreign films and anything I’d heard of. This was an education unto itself.

I worked there for two years, taking me to high school graduation and into the next chapter of my life. As silly or half-cocked as it sounds, I decided that when I retired, I would spend three to four days a week working at a video store, spending my later years in the atmosphere that I loved.

Yet, as the years progressed, trends changed and people’s entertainment habits evolved. Films available on TV’s On Demand became popular. Netflix started to boom with its home-delivery platform. PlayStation and X-box started to offer online film rentals. Living in Indianapolis, I saw Blockbusters close down one by one. The days of leisurely purusing the new-release wall were over. I was now forced to scroll through options on my TV, iPad, or that colorful box outside my local grocery store.

Rarely do we see the demise of something so fast. Technology came in like a speeding bullet and wiped out video rental stores seemingly overnight. The platforms changed and people no longer had to travel to rent a movie. Convenience was once again king.

For generations after mine, there will never be a physical space to gather with other movie enthusiasts, reading the backs of boxes for synopses, and they definitely won’t be writing their names on the backs of movie posters to stake future claims. No need to call ahead and have someone hold your movie for you. And don’t worry, you won’t have late fees as your rental will just magically disappear on your device.

Watching the demise of one of my passions taught me a timeless lesson: Nothing stays the same.

In every capacity of life, there is constant movement and propulsion. Observing the advancement of entertainment and convenience solidified that one will always be trying to improve or elevate the current model. I’ll always have fond memories of afternoons in Movie Warehouse. The industry I worked in wasn’t broken or lacking in fundamental appeal, it just happened to be a casualty of unfathomable technology.

I’m still frustrated that these movie rental locations won’t be around when I decide to retire. For my sake, I hope movie theaters can hold on another 30 years, as I know someone who would make a wonderful ticket taker.

Jim Jackson of Frankfort is a freelance writer.

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