Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Be Kind, Rent Local

About a year ago, the New York Times published this piece on Movie Place, one of the last relics of that dying breed — the local video rental store. Shouldered out by rising rents and the Blockbusters of the world, these independent shops were beginning to take on a familiar modern-world patina — manufactured obsolescence — set to take their place alongside electric cars, family farms, scripted TV shows —...

Oh, but wait. Maybe we're on to something here. With the recently re-invigorated consumer obsession with all things green (sick of that word yet, don't worry, this year, it's all about the Blue), perhaps there's hope yet for mom and pop Videophile.

Even a hazardous guess at the amount of energy that goes into delivering one Netflix dvd should spur any guilt-ridden consumer into re-strategizing their video-borrowing habits... The fuel for the truck that delivers it to and from your home, the single-use (okay, double-use if you want to get technical) mailers, the tens of thousands (I presume) of new release dvds that fade from memory after a few months and thus must be liquidated or tossed out or refashioned into ugly works of "art."

Compare that to walking down to the corner to rent your movie, then walking back to the store to return it, with the dvd(s) all in the same packaging that gets used over and over by subsequent renters. Plus, you also support the local economy by reinvesting your dollars back into the community. And let's not overlook the simple pleasures in browsing the titles by hand or chatting about films with the store's other occupants or the smug sense of satisfaction that comes from seeing the bad choices that other renters make.

Of course there are benefits to a Netflix membership not to be discounted. Twofold for me (without even factoring in the price difference); it assuages any anxiety I might have of keeping a movie out too long, and well, there's the convenience factor. Here it comes, in my mailbox. And there it goes, dropped off in any number of mailboxes near my home, or work, or wherever I happen to be.

Convenience lulls us into a common complacence, sure. But with the green/blue/blue-green movement rapidly reaching critical mass, perhaps we'll be more apt to consider the myriad hidden costs it accrues. And as the old villager in Kurosawa's "Village of the Watermills" might ask, what's so great about convenience anyway? I mean, a few blocks ain't so bad now, is it? Just trying to keep it all in perspective...

Remember Kim's?
6 St. Mark's Place
89 Christopher St.
144 Bleecker St. (where I signed up for my first NY video store membership...ah, the memories)

More convenient for me, though, is:
Videology at 308 Bedford, Williamsburg
which is where I rented Kurosawa's Dreams

I'm sure there's one near you too.

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