'Mmmmmmm, Antichrist."

I hate Redbox. Let me get that out of the way. I see people standing at them at the grocery store and I want to stand over their shoulders and point them towards the quality titles rather than the easy dogshit they tend to choose because some pretty face is leering at them.

They took a hit. Lost some money. Didn’t live up to projections. They are a rectangle at the grocery store that farts out movies from a somewhat limited collection. I cannot weep for Redbox.

Case in point, the number one Redbox movie over the past 30 days is fuckin’ Salt (my in-depth review). Last night I was buying my typical Friday Night Pizzeria Pretzel Combos and subsequent and necessary Liquid Plumr and I overheard two petite young ladies standing at the video store/kiosk ruminating on films that were “the bomb”. I didn’t see what they were pointing at but it’s my guess none of their choices coincide with yours or my list for the best of 2010. I would bet they’ve helped keep the likes of Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson continue the lifestyles they’ve grown accustomed to. Helped Zac Efron save up for an “H”.

As a child of the mom and pop video store culture, having spent thousands of hours from the years 1985-2000 chatting with the owners and patrons of Video Connection, Versatile Video, Video Land, Prime Video, and many others I think that places where people gather to discuss and choose movies are sacred. A lot of bad things happen there:

  • Misinformed patrons. They think that because The Tooth Fairy has bought an endcap that it must be good.
  • Staffs with an asshole’s taste. “Dude, The Boondock Saints is the shit!” “Put Klute down, can you see that someone just returned Stop Loss!”
  • Giant round people rent like 20 titles at a time and then proceed to watch them while eating in a marathon enlargement ritual.
  • Everyone thinks they’re an authority. Bad things happen, and a few potential Mads Mikkelsen fans are never given the chance.
  • Someone inevitably rents Grease 2.

But they have/had a value. Many of us had our tastes shaped by these places. The video store is a haven even though the Blockbusters and MovieStops of the world have drastically homogenized them. The Redbox and its ilk take that a step further.

I must admit, I was pleased to see titles like Winter’s Bone available in these machines. They serve a purpose. Convenience. Cheapness. Not having to interact with a human being.

In the past a red box meant perhaps you should go rent a movie or something.

I see the value to the industry too. This vitalizes a market always in danger of stagnating. Blockbuster is failing because Blockbuster sucks. Netflix is evolving to meet our needs. It may work or it may not. The video market is ever-changing and one of the very few things in the entertainment business we actually influence. We’ll always need a way to see movies cheaply and without having to the buy them. In a perfect world we’d have digital download, On Demand, video stores, Redboxes, and maybe even a little gentleman who knocks on our door and sings the movies into a future device we’ll build made of love, heavy cream, and binary code. But right now the market is a powderkeg and I still see the Redbox as a shortcut. An interloper. An appeasement to the very heart of the mainstream whose seeming innocence masks a potential threat of cutting away at those last few bastions of amazingness. The kinds of stores Renn writes about in his (published not nearly enough) column. If we lose one Videdrome because of Redbox, then Redbox is my personal Moriarty.

They took a hit.

Oh well. Maybe it’ll force them to take their crimson cyborg and use it as a weapon of good. Maybe they’ll consult folks like me for a bevy of “choice cuts” to sneak in with the Salts of the world.