Name: Free Blockbuster.
Age: Founded in 2018.
Appearance: Post-apocalyptic entertainment network.
But what is Blockbuster, and why does it need freeing? Blockbuster was an international chain of video rental outlets, which filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
Sorry, an international chain of what? Video rental outlets – shops where you could hire films to play in your VCR.
I think you had better start at the beginning. Once upon a time, when you wanted to watch a movie at home, you had to go out and acquire it in the form of a VHS tape.
You mean those fat square DVDs you sometimes find in the attics of houses scheduled for demolition? That’s them. One of two rival formats – the other was Betamax – VHS eventually claimed victory after a long and difficult battle for the hearts of consumers.
I’ve heard about this. Is that what the civil war was about? Enough history – the point is that the VHS tape is back. The Free Blockbuster movement, founded by Brian Morrison, a Los Angeles resident, has transformed abandoned newspaper vending boxes into mini-libraries for those wanting to borrow and lend old tapes.
And it has a following? There are 69 boxes across the US, Canada and Australia.
Weird, but OK. Morrison is not alone. Andy Johnson, who runs what is claimed to be the UK’s last remaining video shop in Toxteth, Liverpool, has recently rescued a collection of 20,000 VHS tapes.
Why are people suddenly so keen on VHS? Was the quality that good? No, it was terrible.
Then let me be the first to say that I don’t get it. It’s something akin to the enduring fascination with vinyl, but it’s also nostalgia for classic films of the 80s and 90s, which a certain demographic first saw on VHS.
Maybe the primitive technology is simpler for these geezers. Not any more – if you want to play a VHS tape on a modern smart TV, you need a special converter.
So they’re just trying to recreate the magic of a bygone era. It did seem like a miracle at the time – you could watch Footloose as many times as you wanted!
How many times was that? Not quite one, as it turned out.
If it makes some old people happy, who can say a word against it? Blockbuster. The company was bought out of bankruptcy in 2011, still maintains one store in Oregon and doesn’t like its name being used on old newspaper boxes full of free videos.
Do say: “Be kind, rewind.”
Don’t say: “Ghost Thrusters – how did I miss this one?”