Saturday, August 08, 2009

Awake in the Heartland

I was sitting in the barber's chair reading TIME Magazine yesterday when I read this column from one of my film reviewer heroes, Richard Corliss, and for the first time felt compelled to write a Letter to the Editor.

Mr. Corliss,

I am a longtime fan of your work but take issue with your portrayal of Netflix in your recent article.

It is too easy to draw a parallel between the rise of Netflix and the fall of the local video store such as the one you mentioned in Manhattan. However that theory is contingent on the fact that you ever had that option to begin with.

I live in a town with the unlikely name of Farmland, Indiana, in which the closest video store is a Redbox at a McDonald's in a town ten minutes away and the closest Blockbuster is in the nearest city thirty minutes the other direction. There is also where you can find the closest movie theater (that you can't drive your car right up to the screen). I am fortunate to live on a road where the cable service runs past, connecting two towns, but many of my neighbors rely on spotty dish reception or digital rabbit ears.

Netflix is a godsend to me, a person who graduated with a film major in college (reading Film Comment voraciously at the college library), works peripherally in movies and film festivals, and yet lives in several square miles of cornfield. I am also a voracious reader and probably get a second strike for loving Amazon and my new Kindle. The proximity of a hip bookstore to my home does not bear discussion.

Those of us who live in the vast Flyover Country between our two coasts have learned to live without the instant gratification our metropolitan brethren yearn for but do still smart at those who take our cultural lifelines to task.


kingseyeland said...

Apparently this critic isn't high enough on the "Watch Instantly" feature on Netflix to bother mentioning that, or perhaps he's ignoring that because it undermines his key argument. For about a hundred bucks, you can get the Netflix player and watch whatever from their growing list of Instant choices.

The market is showing every indication that we are moving away from physical media and toward intangible digital delivery of home entertainment.

And I never met a video store jockey who didn't act like a condescending douche to people. Screw 'em.

adrienne said...

Hear, hear!

When we lived in your area, there was never a video store that carried many independents or foreign films.

Sure, it's great to own some films, but it's a huge expense to purchase them all for even a first look.

We moved to a different Midwestern metropolitan area, but the community here sticks to major releases. Video stores can't make money off indies and foreign films, so they don't stock them. The public libraries were our last best hopes until Netflix came into being, but their collections often lack b-movies and new release films.

Cable is a problem in the midwest and rural areas. Non-compete agreements between companies result in monopolies that artificially elevate the prices. We actually own set-top antennae and watch broadcast tv.

Our Roku streams great BBC series like the IT crowd into our lives at bargain rates.

With a preschooler in the house, it's nice to know 2 seasons of Blue's Clues are available on demand and there aren't discs to scratch, lose, or store.

Mail delays? Botched orders? We haven't experienced either in 2 years of service. Missing discs can be reported and another is dispatched the following day. Waiting 1 day for a disc to get to Netflix then another day for the new disc to arrive is nothing for people who waited months for their library to acquire the item or a week Amazon to deliver it (after purchase) for free.

Pete Bauer said...

Well said, John. Netflix rocks. And even if it causes the demise of local video stores, that's the price of innovation. Things change. Get over it.

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