Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hooray! Death Star close to exploding!

From IMDb's news page today:

Blockbuster May Be on the Verge of Bankruptcy

Blockbuster released its most dismal quarterly report ever on Tuesday, so dismal that it even included a warning that it may be forced to seek bankruptcy protection. The company reported a loss of $491 million during the quarter, most of it due to a write-down related to its spin-off from former parent Viacom. In-store business, it said, continued to be down due to the elimination of late fees, and online business remained flat as the company was unable to attract more than a fraction of Netflix's subscriber base. The company said that it plans to reduce marketing costs and sell or shutter its smaller rental chains, Movie Trading, Video King and Mr. Movies.

I quit renting from Blockbuster way the heck back in 1989, before many of you may well have been born, for several reasons. Not the least of these was its self-serving hypocrisy. Here was this video chain that loved to masquerade as "your family video store," boasting about its refusal to carry "controversial" movies like Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, when all along its motives for doing so were all about pandering to the fears and prejudices of what they saw as being the most important customer base/revenue stream, moreso than any honest concern for "morality" or "decency." And anyway, their "family store" self-image never gave them any cause not to carry the most gory, violent, exploitive and misogynist no-budget horror films or Skinemax tease-sleaze "thrillers".

The same dishonesty carried over into their rejection of NC-17 titles. The MPAA, not any filmmaker's best friend by any stretch of the imagination, genuinely tried to create a respectable adult rating for movies with the NC-17. But Blockbuster quickly realized a precept also adopted years later by the likes of Karl Rove and the extreme right: you can't lose money by exploiting ignorance and fear. So immediately, out went the press releases decrying the NC-17 as an evil conspiracy by liberal (read: Jewish) Hollywood moguls to sneak filthy porn into the lilywhite homes of upstanding American Christians. And you won't find any of that filth at your family video store, moms and dads! Pow — the NC-17 was killed before it ever had a chance. Before long, Blockbuster was all but dictating to Hollywood how to make its films. When they were the top dogs in home video, no light ever turned green without a careful consideration of how well the rentals at Blockbuster would do, and how to make the kinds of movies they'd carry, and how to package those movies to please them. A video chain was setting the rules of how filmmakers got to make films!

It's offensive enough to me, as a consumer (much less a filmmaker), for a business to cast itself in the role of My Mommy. It's doubly offensive when their reasons for doing so aren't that they give a damn about films, or even about me, but simply the contents of my wallet.

The very last time I was in a Blockbuster, I was agog that on the in-store monitors, they weren't showing a movie, nor even trailers for movies. They were showing ads for Blockbuster! They already had me in the store, and yet they still felt like they had to bombard me nonstop with their own advertising. Looking for a movie to rent tonight? No, no! You want two or three... Shameless.

Die, Blockbuster, die. I look forward to dancing on your grave.


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