Sunday, January 6, 2013

An Open Letter to Red Box

Dear Red Box,

I am forever glad to have met your acquaintance. You probably didn't notice me, but I certainly remember the first time I saw you. You were so new and so different. Like the video game console in The Last Starfighter, you seem to have been dropped into the dirtiest, crappiest place in our society (McDonald's) yet you had a magnetism stronger than my ability to resist.

I approached you, or you pulled me near...I'm not sure which. I touched your screen. I scrolled through your movies. It was foreign and strange and I didn't exactly know what to expect or how to react to your ease of use. Eventually I found a movie I was interested in watching. That was when you said those two sweet little words. “One dollar” you whispered in my ear. One dollar? Are you out of your mind? Of course not. You don't have a mind. You're a box that happens to be painted red. And you are wonderful.

You see, oh dear Red (pause for dramatic effect) Box, I had long ago terminated my relationship with Blockbuster and Hollywood. The thoughts of the local independent movie rental shops were but a fleeting memory. Even having mentioned these, your competitors from times past, should imply that my grooming in movie rental selection was borne of stores with open floor space and racks upon racks of films categorized as “Drama” or “Comedy” or “Horror” or, along the much coveted exterior wall, “New Releases”. My habit was shared universally with all of America. I would enter the store, turn left, find the wall 'o new releases and browse the up to year-old releases that I had pored over probably just a few nights before. Much like the common “so many channels and nothing on” I would search through the endless alphabetized boxes looking for that gold nugget I had somehow missed each and every other time I had combed this same spot.

And I remember the last time I ever walked into a movie rental store. It was a Hollywood near my house. I was looking for “The Nativity”. Hollywood had it for rent. The cost was $4.99 for a five night rental. This was a full two dollars per night higher than my previous rental which had been a couple of years prior. The clerk was kind enough to point out that I could purchase the DVD for the same price from the used movie bin. Really? I can rent it or buy it for the same price? Have you considered adjusting your pricing model to compete with this spaceship from the future called The Red Box? “No,” she assured me. She had it on good authority that you, The Red Box, were nothing but a mere fad and that your financials were suffering. You were but a fleeting mistress and would fade into oblivion akin to the LaserDisk. As I said, that was the final time I set foot in a movie rental store. As far as I know that rotund and brawny gal died in the great Hollywood implosion of a few years ago clinging to the idea that I somehow wanted to spend $5 to borrow a movie for a few nights.

So, Red Box, you win. I have a Netflix account and it's great, but it can't satisfy my completely. We watch the occasional streamed movie that the rating matrix swears we will judge 4.5 stars out of 5. But when we are itching to see a new release we drive up to the local Albertsons (thank you for not limiting yourself to the golden arches!) where there are not one, but two kiosks. For impromptu movie night, you are always there for me. And your ease of access is amazing. Your app allows me to choose and reserve a movie from my phone! I know you care for me as I do you because you hold the movie for me personally. All I have to do is swipe my credit card? All love comes with a price. $1.20? What's twenty cents between friends? I need you Red Box...I need you.

All that said, I have a grievance to air. You see, I used to feel special. I felt chosen. I was “in the know” because of our relationship. But do you know who now knows you and utilizes your comforts? Everyone. Oh, and also Everyone's brother. Am I greedy? Am I jealous? Do I fear being lost amongst the crowd of your admirers? Hardly. You think too highly of yourself. Don't forget that you are nothing but a large red container filled with usually disappointing “entertainment” created by large corporations whose political agendas typically clash with my moral compass.

My problem, dear box, is that when you make yourself available to the masses you invite the lowest common denominator to frequent your services. What I ask for is a clear instruction manual on a flashing, brightly lit marquee above each kiosk. And I ask for severe consequences struck upon those who choose to disregard these rules.

Rule #1
No one under the age of 16 is allowed to browse movies without an adult present. Multiple times I have stood in line behind 12 year old girls who browse their way through each and every movie. In the old brick and mortar stores this would have been perfectly acceptable. It wouldn't have bothered anyone because we could simply walk around her and search through the wall of entertainment at out own paces. However, considering the necessity of your screen, oh Red (pause for dramatic effect) Box, I am completely paralyzed by the indecision of the adolescent dingbat standing between me and your glory. What's more is that this girl, no matter how many times it happens or which little girl it is, HAS NO CREDIT CARD! Why? Why is it, you ask, that she is standing here reading the description of Men in Black III? Seriously? Men in Black III???? Here's a description: The unwatchable threequel to a marginal movie made before you were born regarding ridiculous aliens and subpar dialogue. Has anyone, in the history of Earth, ever...EVER read the full description of Men in Black III? Yes. The girl in front of me at Kiosk B. And why was she there alone? Because her father has become so annoyed by her insistence on inserting the word “like” into each sentence three times that he couldn't stand grocery shopping with her. So he walked in, sent his offspring to annoy The Red Box and checked off the list his wife made him in peaceful solitude. Shame on you Crappy Father. Shame on you.

Rule #2
Where there are two kiosks, there is one line. I don't care that some people have reservations on one box and one on another. People can sort that out from the front of the line. What I'm saying is this: if I arrive first, Billy don't get togo in front of me simply because Billy be standing to my right. There is one line or there will be martial law. Perhaps the rule should be “if you feel like you're getting away with something then you shouldn't be doing it.”

Rule #3
You can read no more than 3 descriptions in one visit. Here's the deal...if you're looking to watch a movie how much do you want to know about it anyway? In life there used to be a thing called a “pleasant surprise”. I fear that with today's 24 hour news cycle we feel the need to process so much surface level information that we have lost that splendid satisfaction from having been blind-sided by a good story. The description, or what used to be the back of the box, tells you nothing about the quality of the acting, the dialogue, the tells you a brief synopsis of the story which isn't going to tell you if you'll enjoy it anyway. Do you think the back of the box on Sideways will make you want to follow the romantic journey of a down on his luck wine enthusiast as he rediscovers his spirit in a tale of frolicking in the beauty of the California wine country? Come on.

Rule #4
If you spend more than 3 minutes on your turn you are required by law to rent something. The penalty for breaking this law is death.

And now, fair Red Box, I bid you adieu. If you will kindly implement the above rules if use immediately I will remain your most obedient and loyal servant. Thank you for finding a business model that allows me minimal contact with humans as we continue to evolve into a society with our eyes glued to screens instead of one anothers'.

Your affectionately,


PS – The Dark Knight Rises was really good.

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