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The Geek Life: The Blockbuster Video Scavenger

Picking the carcass clean

By Robert T. Trate     February 08, 2012


The Geek Life is a weekly look at what is happening in the Geek Culture. Movies, Comics, Books, Video Games and TV Shows encompass more than just release dates and reviews. This week the Geek Life picks a dying Blockbuster Video clean.
The location of my Blockbuster Video, which is closing, is irrelevant. You and I both know that sooner or later one near you will be closing, too. Their little sign that says: “This Location Only” is almost laughable. We know it and they know it because video rental stores are about to go the way of the Dodo. It was inevitable as Netflix, streaming videos, and downloadable content have all but eliminated the desire to go rent a movie. The pros and cons of the streaming of movies, downloadable films, and Blu-rays all together is an argument for another day. What I want to share with you is how to make the most of your Blockbuster Video closing. 

I have worked in 4 different video stores in my lifetime and a few record stores that sold movies as well. I have seen the ins and outs as well as the various degrees of the video store empire. I’ve put away adult films at a mom and pop store. I’ve even opened a big chain. I’ve seen laser discs added to the shelf only to be swept away by DVDs. I’ve seen it all, trust me.
The Search:

Tips to buying DVDs and Blu-rays at Blockbuster Closings

Many of us have tons of DVDs and Blu-rays already. Our libraries are vast but never fully complete. When walking into the dying Blockbuster make sure you have a list of few things in your head. However, it is the surprises that you find that make the trip worthwhile. Personally, this time around I had Criterion Collection DVDs in mind. The reason being that many “normal” people have never heard of Criterion Collection DVDs and these films often get neglected. There is always a good chance of finding some out of print editions or Kurosawa films just sitting there waiting. Plus new Criterion Collection films are not cheap and these will be.
What I have always found to be the best approach, after a quick look, is to start at A and end with Z. A real mind blower I know, but when the store is closing everything quickly gets into disarray. With movie stacks being created by customers and then abounded, it quickly becomes a mess. My recent visit allotted me 10 minutes in the store and I walked away with John Wayne’s Big Jake and Anchor Bay’s Special Edition DVD of The Beast Master. Never did I think I would walk into that store and walk out with Marc Singer’s classic film. Nor did I think I would pay a whole $3.99 for it (ditto for Zardox’s special edition the next day).
TV Shows:

Tips to buying DVDs and Blu-rays at Blockbuster Closings

Blockbuster of course had a huge selection of TV shows both complete and incomplete. With streaming of many of these series available now, I found myself thinking $19.99 for Dexter Season 1 was a bit much. That money could be better spent on getting the special edition of Brad Bird’s Iron Giant and the unrated special edition of Jonathan King’s Black Sheep. What I thought was great about the TV Shows being offered both in single packaged discs and by season was what if I had a screwed up disc? I bought a complete new Farscape boxset once and, by the time I got to the third season, I finally noticed one disc was missing. Sadly, there was no Farscape boxset at this Blockbuster Video.
Nah, I want the Blu-ray:

Tips to buying DVDs and Blu-rays at Blockbuster Closings

I know a lot of people who want only Blu-rays, now. Sure they are expensive and come with a lot of bells and whistles making some worth holding out for. I found a special edition of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind on DVD and knew that it wasn’t going to make me happy. Not when the Blu-ray has all the different versions on it. In the same realm of movies, Abrams’ Super 8 was everywhere on DVD but nowhere was there a Blu-ray. That one, too, must be a new Blu-ray purchase.
The Unknown and the Relics:

Tips to buying DVDs and Blu-rays at Blockbuster Closings

The video store used to be a cornucopia of titles. Releases of movies both big and small would always, somehow, find their way into your local video store. While you are walking through the Blockbuster, keep your eye open for odd special editions (I found a 2006 single disc Conan the Complete Quest) and older versions of films that are no longer in print such as the Criterions or even one of the various Evil Dead releases. Granted, you probably have it already but who knows what is out there just waiting for you to rediscover?
Pick them Clean:

Tips to buying DVDs and Blu-rays at Blockbuster Closings

The video stores are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Take this time to relish in one or two last hurrahs as you walk through the aisles and pick out a DVD or two. While you are there look for that oddball title you always wanted, discover some old classics (I picked up 5 Hitchcock’s myself), and above all, stock up on the movie candy.  
Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.


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monkeyfoot 2/8/2012 8:49:35 AM

Another great article!

I've mostly stopped buying DVDs because I noticed I rarely looked at them. Sometimes once maybe twice, but the shelves of legitimate and bootleg shows and movies tend to collect dust except when somebody else wants to see something. When I do decide to buy one it is usually for the extras so I can see all the behind the scenes and info my geeky heart wants to know. But I even found I often don't look at those either. I still haven't looked at the extras for Abrams' Star Trek or Iron Man & Iron Man 2.

I even shared a laugh with a friend about how we enjoyed watching a movie the night before. At our separate homes and without talking to each other, we both set aside time to watch a particular movie premiering on cable and enjoying it that evening. But the thing was we both owned that film and could look at it anytime! Watching it on cable at that time just seemed more special to us.

I keep thinking I need to stop by the next video store closing I see but usually things are well picked over and I don't find things that interest me.

I do have to comment that you buying a Big Jake , Lifeboat,OHMSS, To Catch A Thief,  WITH Beastmaster has to be a violation of the laws of God and Man that has probably triggered the Apocolypse! No wonder the world ends this year! :-) 

Wiseguy 2/8/2012 9:10:36 AM

I too stopped or better yet slowed my dvd purchases. I only buy the big event genre movies and the rare occasional just plain great film.

I have about 1000 dvd's and rarely pop one in but like monkeyfoot whenever I run into the same film playing on tv or cable I watch and even behave as if I didn't already own it by running to the bathroom on commercials or pausing it, shushing people and all.

Still if I do see a BB closing I may pop in and see if I run into that rare gem although I have no particular film in mind

violator14 2/8/2012 9:12:50 AM

OMG, I JUST went to one yesterday. They were selling blu rays and dvds for llike $4! and Games that are usually $45 used were like $25. i went and picked up Arkham City for that price. haha. Ill probably stop by again. It was awesome.

mike10 2/8/2012 9:26:31 AM

 I think you are wasting your time buying movies from Blockbuster. I've been picking up used and in some cases new movies for as low as $2 or $3 dollars from Amazon third party sellers and some even offer free prime member shipping and if not $3 for shipping and I get exactly what I want.

 It's funny but I also watch movies I own when they are on TV. I own Serenity and must have watched it 3 times in the last 6 months on TV just to name one movie. My problem is my DVR is always full of shows to watch so I'm always putting off watching a old DVD or Bluray and instead of going to the movies I just wait about 3 months and the movie is usually for sale.

jedibanner 2/8/2012 10:18:38 AM

They already closed up here in Canada but when it was on sale, I would suggest wait until all becomes 40% off, not before.

First weeks are usually 15% off and then they move up as they get closer to closing their stores.

hanso 2/8/2012 10:28:02 AM

True that, I'm purchasing waaaaaay less movies as well cause I wasn't really watching them, I even got a few still wrapped up.   Now I'll pick stuff up only on Blu Ray if they are really cheap or if its a sequel to something I missed at the theatre and know that I will enjoy.  For example, I skipped the last three Harry Potter flicks and just waited for them to arrive on Blu Ray.  Anyway, with Netflix I don't really see the need to purchase flicks since I can just order whatever I want to see.  Only drawback is I can't watch it at the exact moment unless its on On Demand.

I'll only buy if I consider them to be cheap like I did with the Scream trilogy ($18) and Matrix Collection ($25 for 4 movies) or if they include a movie theatre coupon for something I want to watch.  For example, I bought Role Models in the summer cause it included $10 to see Bridesmaids I believe.  I figure if I'm already going to pay to see the movie might was well get a free Blu out of it.

But back to Trate's article, in addition to movies like Trate mentioned you can also purchase some movie merchandise for cheap at those blockbusters.  I remember that when the one next to me closed I got a TDK Joker and Batman bobblehead for $5 each, and they were originally priced at $15.  Side note, I saw the same Joker bobblehead a couple of months ago at Port Authority in NYC for like $40 I belive. 

ElBaz13 2/8/2012 12:05:38 PM


BBV Canada had the 3 levels of sales for their blowouts. 30%, 50% and 70%. I spent a lot of cash when it was 70%. Got new blus for $7-9. used ones for $3-4. Considering Netflix blows in Canada and it costs almost $6-7 to rent an HD movie or PPV, this was pretty good.

As for buying movies, I avoid buying them on their first day of release because they will drop in price within 3 months except for Disney classics.

violator14 2/8/2012 12:09:46 PM

Mike10/Hanso- haha i have the same exact issues as u guys. Ill only buy a blu-ray if it's a must have like a superhero movie/Avatar/Godfather or something. I just went yesterday to check out what video games they had for sale. But more importantly, I was able to pick up a missing Band Of Brothers dvd for $3 that ive been missing for years! I feel complete again.......  =)

decepticons2 2/8/2012 1:36:23 PM

You guys got lucky there was 3 in 10 block radius and they never went less then 20%. Then all there stock magicaly dissapeared. I was told if they couldnt sell it at the 20% off they were moving them all to one location. Anyone else a Gold Member over 200 rentals a year?

Was to bad at one point they had a complete collection of You're Under Arrest. Was hoping to get a good deal on it. I'm like Wiseguy and others I think I purchased close to 500 DVDs in the first few years now I am getting less then 10 a year.  I give the studios my money at the theatre DVD/Bluray are a scam probably costs them about a dollar to make them in china/mexico anyways.

Also not even mention in the Death of video stores is Video On Demand it is exactly the same as a dvd and no leaving your couch. Can equal some scary cable bills though.


karas1 2/8/2012 3:10:59 PM

I like having DVDs.  I can se the show/movie any time I want and I love the extras. 

I've never had netflix and I don't stream.  There is a Blockbusters nearby, but I haven't rented anything in years.  With all the movies and shows available on cable channels there is very rarely a time when there is nothing on.  And if there is, I own many DVDs and videotapes I can watch.

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