Sunday, April 14, 2013

Goodbye Showtime

Showtime in Bjerregaards gate, Oslo, closed its doors tonight after more than fifteen years in the video rental business. I cannot remember when they were not there, so that tells me it’s a long time ago that they opened their doors for the first time to movie lovers like me. They’ve been running a ‘going out of business’ sale for the past week; all their DVDs, Blu-Ray videos, candy, microwave popcorn, Pringles potato chips and other snacks were on sale with huge percentage markdowns. I got a text message from them this past week telling me that they were going out of business and that they would have a sale all week; I stopped in tonight, mostly to say goodbye to the store and to deal with my mixed feelings about its closing. I asked the young woman behind the counter why they were closing; she said because they were running a deficit. They simply don’t turn enough profit. And that’s the death knell these days. Nobody keeps a store open when it’s operating in the red.

The store, which was rather large, never made much out of itself, and that was one of the reasons I liked it. It probably could have used a bit of renovation; it could have been a tad trendier. No matter. I liked it as it was, somewhat organized, somewhat messy. You could always find the new films--the top 10 films; you might have to search for some of the older films you wanted, but it was fun to do so, like going through bookshelves in a library trying to find a specific book or author, and discovering something else along the way, like some long-forgotten horror film from the early 1990s. I enjoyed talking to the people who worked there; sometimes they recommended films (like Exit through the Gift Shop—about Thierry Guetta and Banksy, the street artist), other times we briefly discussed films we had seen. Stopping in to Showtime was something I often did on Sunday evenings after I had attended mass; I would walk up the hill in Ullevålsveien, make the right onto Waldemar Thranes gate, and there it was, right next door to the pharmacy. I would often rent three films at one time and purchase some candy or other snack to enjoy during film viewing. I will miss that little routine on Sunday evenings; I almost asked the young woman tonight—what am I going to do now without you? She looked unhappy, probably about as unhappy as I did. I feel sad about their closing. I’m not always so fond of change, especially when it impacts on what I love doing —watching movies. I don’t think it will be easy to find another such store in our residential vicinity; I have a feeling that this closing is a portent of things to come—that most such stores will be closing their doors eventually. Many major cable TV companies offer online video services now, and there are any number of companies that have sprung up to provide that service if your cable TV provider doesn’t. If you have an internet connection, you can download whatever film you’d like to see without paying a fortune. If you own a tablet of any sort, you can download films for viewing onto your iPad or similar. So why would you want to physically walk into a store and rent a film?

I guess my answer would be that I don’t want to spend my entire life in an online world. I am on a computer each day from early morning until late afternoon for work purposes: emails, Google searches, reading journal articles, writing journal articles, visiting scientific sites—the list is long. Many hours are spent online each week. It’s a limited way of living in the world, even though the internet exposes you to a huge amount of information. I feel constrained at times when I am online. So I like actually walking into a video rental store and perusing the shelves, trying to find a film I’d like to watch. I suppose people will point out to me that you are really doing the same thing when you are on Netflix or other online video services; you’re checking out their ‘film library shelves’. I guess that’s true, but I will still miss being able to physically pick up a film DVD and turn it over to read about the film on the back cover, deciding to rent it, buying some candy on my way out, and looking forward to watching the films when I get home. Goodbye Showtime, and thanks for many enjoyable years.

(For those of you who read Norwegian, here is a link with three reviews of this store. It's nice to see that others also had pleasant experiences dealing with Showtime: http://www.yelp.no/biz/showtime-oslo)

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