As much as I love movies, I've never rented from a Redbox kiosk. It's not some bold statement on my part about how the mom-and-pop video stores that I grew up with are all but extinct -- I've just never had the need. If I want to see a new movie, I usually see it when it's in theaters. If I miss it there, and it's a must-see, I get it from Netflix. No big deal.

Most of the time, if I'm in the mood for a movie I haven't seen, I have a tendency to rent something more than a few years old. It's not film snobbery on my part; I'm just trying to fill the gaps in the movies that I've always wanted to see and never made time for. Because Redbox tends to carry only the newest of the new releases, a guy like me is out of luck when he wants to see '80s VHS crap like Slime City or an obscure classic like A Face in the Crowd.

While I was grocery shopping last week, a kid outside of a Redbox kiosk was throwing a fit to see Free Willy. "They don't have Free Willy," his father told him, dismissively. The kid wasn't having any of that, "I WANNA SEE FREE WILLY!!!" That exclamation and some aggressive foot-stomping earned him a weak slap on the butt. "I told you they don't have Free Willy!"
Were we pampered as kids by simply having video stores? When I wanted to see The NeverEnding Story (Free Willy was a little bit after my time), I could just go get it (or send Mom to go get it). And I did that. A lot. It struck me as sad, in an old man "back in my day" kind of way, that this kid couldn't just see the movie he wanted to see. The Blockbusters shut down the locally owned stores, and now the Redboxes (and Netflixes) are shutting down the Blockbusters. As much as we talk about living in a world where entertainment is constantly at our fingertips, it's not always the entertainment we want.

We've taken out a lot of the choices in what films we can see and replaced them with choices in where we can see the films (it's like living in a town with a dozen hamburger joints and no other restaurants). Then, the places supplying the films get to decide what films we're going to watch, and a lot of that is based on business projections or cheap syndication and video-on-demand. That's fine if you're Redbox -- you're in it to win it; not because of a deep appreciation of film, but because of a deep appreciation of the proliferation of debit cards.

We got ourselves into this fix, through a desire for convenience over quality, but will things ever come full circle? What I'm basically asking is, how is this kid ever going to rent Free Willy?
categories Features, Cinematical