I don’t know if you’ve read this article from last August, but Time Magazine’s film critic Richard Corliss slammed Netflix for what it’s doing to indie video stores.
Beyond the mail delays and the botched orders, the lack of human interaction is the big problem with Netflix and its cyber-ilk. Thanks to the Internet, we can now do nearly everything — working, shopping, moviegoing, social networking, having sex — on one machine at home. We’re becoming a society of shut-ins. We deprive ourselves of exercise, even if it’s just a stroll around the mall, until we’re the shape of those blobby people in WALL•E. And we deny ourselves the random epiphanies of human contact (emphasis added).
Very well stated. My work behind the counter at Facets puts me in contact (in person or by phone) with people all the time who ask for recommendations. I’m very glad to see some folks who are open to the idea of trying out films they may have never heard of before or were a little hesitant to view.
Since my move to the Chicago area in 2001, the vast majority of new friends I’ve made were as a result of working in an indie video store and being exposed to a variety of very talented people both behind and in front of the counter. Finding out what a person will watch and like will connect you to his/her personality and provide a way for someone else to open up with you–something much needed in a society that, for many years, has emphasized isolation using everything from city planning to entertainment gadgetry.
I understand the convenience of using rent-by-mail. It is a great option for those who don’t have much time on their hands or much cash for traveling to the now scarcer local video store. But relying only on a service that intrinsically keeps cinephiles from meeting face-to-face flies in the face of the very heart of movie enjoyment–it’s a shared experience. We don’t, and shouldn’t, keep our love for movies to ourselves. It’s why we will often say to our friends and others, “Have you seen __?” or “Do you remember that scene in that movie where___?” Movies connect us on a personal level. You can connect with others online, sure, but you know that’s not the same. You want proof? Look at the existence of “Meetup.com” and check out the groups for movie-watching. I doubt there’s a group “Let’s Meet at the Redbox.”
You want to connect face-to-face with human beings again? Indie stores are a great place to start.