Jim Dollarhide, 1952-2016

March 18, 2016

UnknownJim Dollarhide apparently died on Wednesday in a fire at his lakefront home in Madison, Mississippi. I say “apparently” because they found a body in the still-burning rubble of his 3800-foot house and Jim is missing, but it will require some dental examination to make sure. The firefighters said the “structure was fully involved” by the time they got there at 10:41 p.m. after an emergency call from a neighbor, and the upper levels had already collapsed. It’s almost certain Jim is gone. If I have to retract this piece, I will do so with great joy.

I’ve known Jim since my advertising days in the Seventies. He was the first filmmaker I got to spend quality time with. I like movies and all, and I even took some production courses in graduate school so I have some idea what it feels like to create a film, but this was the first guy I ever met who had already decided to make a living at it. To Jim, a beautiful image might be all well and good, but it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing: it has to move.

You meet lots of gifted photographers in the ad game, but they produce a different kind of art. The still shooter shows you an instant in time. The filmmaker shows you the passage of time. Jim had the eye for nifty composition which any good fotog possesses, but it was that third dimension, the depiction of duration, that fascinated and obsessed him.

Jim was a blue-collar filmmaker. By that I mean he was no rarefied sissy on location; he could get down and dirty in physical labor with his crew, made up of people he liked and respected. But he demanded professionalism and courtesy. Once my ad agency hired Jim to do some films and tv spots for Yazoo Mowers, those big-wheeled monsters built like tanks. I was the agency producer, meaning all I had to do was stand around and nod, and guzzle the occasional soft drink. But even with my light load of responsibility, it was the most horrible shoot I’ve ever been on. For two weeks it was steaming even by Mississippi standards (the grips showed me how to dip a neck scarf in Sea Breeze astringent and ice water to cool down the circulation), we were in a severe drought so most grass was brown and we had to figure out how to color it (the mayor had even forbidden people from watering their lawns), and too many of the setups were on undulating spreads that required time-consuming engineering to lay dolly track for smooth camera motion. But we made it through somehow, and celebrated with a wrap party at Jim’s house. I decided to buy each of the crew members a really nice knife to say thanks for going above and beyond. I guess I’d gone there too: one of them said, “This is the first time a producer ever gave me anything.” Jim was walking by, and over his shoulder came, “He gave you a job.”

Me, trying to look productive on that godforsaken Yazoo shoot. Jim is peeking out from my left armpit.

Me, trying to look productive on that godforsaken Yazoo shoot. Jim is peeking out from my left armpit.

Jim’s page on IMDb notes that he “founded a production company called ‘Imageworks’ two decades before Sony Pictures used the term.” I know it does because I’m the one who put it there. We were both running teensy little outfits in the Eighties and we had a symbiotic relationship. He was doing fewer commercials, which are tightly scripted beforehand, and more industrial films and longer documentaries, where he could call in a writer at the pre-production stage. The difference in our two companies was that Imageworks was hugely capital-intensive: Jim had to keep up with emerging technologies, so he needed new equipment all the time. He originally had one of those honking Steenbeck flat-bed editing decks, where to make an edit you physically snipped the film and spliced it back with tape, which is how movies had been cut since time immemorial. In those days some bigger houses were using a process called “negative to tape” for their first baby steps into online editing, but Jim had to separate wants from needs in order to survive in the more frugal environment of central Mississippi. Now the Steenbeck is as quaint a relic as the X-Acto knife, but Jim had long since moved on. It’s a shame that he largely missed out on the digital revolution of the past few years — shooting on location is cheaper and nimbler than it’s ever been before.

Jim not only loved his craft, he also loved his native state of Mississippi, but not in a Confederate way. He was a huge music fan and cherished the rich tradition of Mississippi Delta blues. He shot thousands of feet of B. B. King and became a good friend; Jim’s documentary plays every day at the B. B. King Museum in Indianola. After all the years slogging and working together for industry and commerce, I guess my favorite film of Jim’s is the scriptless HARMONIES: A MISSISSIPPI OVERTURE (1994), a labor of love and a piece of pure cinema that tells you everything you need to know about him in just 25 minutes. He was a kind, upstanding, talented man whose generosity of spirit mentored so many young men and women; their praises and tears are pouring in equally today. Goodbye, Jim. You were one of a kind, and you are already missed.

Eudora Welty, 1909-2001 (Late)

January 17, 2016

eudora-welty-205x302I wrote this the week Eudora Welty passed away and just found it again after all these years. It’s for her friends and admirers.

Eudora Welty died at the age of 92, in Jackson, Mississippi, the town where she lived most of her life. Until her health became frail a few years prior, she had been a fixture of daily life in her quiet, wooded neighborhood, but not in the way William Faulkner once prowled the streets of Oxford, where the bemused locals referred to him behind his back as “Count No-Count.” Miss Welty—for that is how everyone addressed her until they were sweetly admonished to use her first name instead—was a genteel, beloved, active member of the community. She could be seen pushing her grocery cart through the aisles of Jitney Jungle #14, inside its absurd and incongruous “English Village” façade, straining to reach a can on the top shelf but always bearing her beatific smile. She was a regular at Fannie Mae’s hair salon, where gab was as important as styling. One might easily pass her walking on the street in the sultry summer twilight. Never did anyone stop, point, whisper that they were in the presence of one of the towering figures in American letters.

That’s because Miss Welty did not tower. Her work did that for her.

She possessed two talents that many writers of prose tend to overlook, and about which most hotshot screenwriters, judging from their output, can only dream: Eudora Welty had exceptional eyes and ears. Her authorial might derives from a gloriously detailed visual atmosphere, and from her uncanny ability to replicate, and then enhance, the quirky Southern idiom she heard every day and had stored in memory from her girlhood. She enjoyed watching others exercise those talents, too, and was an ardent theatergoer in a time when Jackson sported more than one credible company. She served on the board of directors of New Stage Theatre, the pioneering group that had opened its doors in the mid-Sixties with a raging production of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? at a point when the community was more accustomed to the likes of SOUTH PACIFIC, and she saw nearly every show there. That’s how I got to know her, and that’s when she became “Eudora” to me.

At cast parties in the ornate residences of Southern ladies who lunched, in the rarefied social strata unlocked by her accomplishments, she would come up to the smitten amateur actors and bestow the kindest praise. She didn’t like everything she saw and she told you so, but her scorn was usually reserved for the playwright. I always wanted to say, compared to what you do, we’re five-year-olds putting on a show with flashlights in Daddy’s living room. I even suspected that her enjoyment might be something like what Daddy feels for his lisping children. But that’s not how one accepts a compliment gracefully, and Eudora was the living embodiment of grace.

Once Ivan Rider, then New Stage’s artistic director, invited me to dinner with Eudora, just the three of us. Wow! I looked forward to the event eagerly but nervously. What could I possibly say to amuse her? After a cocktail or two—and she was never shy about cocktail hour—I realized she was using a conversational gambit that comes in handy any time: we were talking about me. But whereas most of us coax someone onto the subject of themselves just to break the ice, Eudora was simply feeding the natural curiosity that made her an unique cross between an artist and a journalist. Ivan had conspired to serve barbecued shrimp, a New Orleans delicacy. To partake, you throw some old newspapers on the table, dump out the shrimp, put on bibs and any other protection you might have, and peel your way through the spicy, delicious mess. Eudora said this was a great dish because its sloppiness washed away any pretense, and diners would always “rise from the table as friends.” By this time, she was talking about herself. She’d just read a novel by a then-fashionable and wildly successful Southern author, and was not impressed: “Honey, you may think you’ve got it. But you don’t.”

The last time I saw Eudora, a friend had asked if I might facilitate some inscribed books for Christmas presents. Eudora insisted that we both come over. On the day, I was mortified that my friend was lugging an imposing stack of COLLECTED STORIES—I thought too many. But its author couldn’t have been more gracious, as ever. On her table was the current issue of Newsweek, with its stark black-and-white cover photo of John Lennon. She was quite disturbed over Lennon’s murder, not as a Beatles fan—she said she liked some of their melodies but I didn’t sense any particular passion—and not just for the potential work that the world wouldn’t get to hear, but chiefly for its meaninglessness; why slaughter an artist who had never hurt anyone? The culture of insanity had already introduced itself with Charles Manson, but we had not yet arrived at the point where schoolchildren took revenge on their tormentors with bullets. Eudora was perplexed over Mark David Chapman. Her vast empathetic skills were of no use here. She couldn’t put herself in his place. In the ensuing years, I’m sure she had to wrestle with this problem again and again, but by then I had moved away, to New York. And then she was gone.

Don Pardo, 1918-2014

August 23, 2014

pardoI was waiting for the Don Pardo obit like a horror-film audience member peeking through hisser fingers, but when it finally came it was still a shock. “A light just went out,” as they say when somebody important to you passes away. Well, one just did last Monday, an announcer so strong and true that he was still strappin’ on the cans at age 96.

Don Pardo had been active since the heyday of radio, but he was best known to those of a certain age for his work on tv game shows, especially THE PRICE IS RIGHT and the original JEOPARDY!, the network version hosted by Art Fleming. (The Alex Trebek JEOPARDY! is syndicated.) We knew his voice because it was rock-solid, and we knew his name because the hosts of those shows would often call out to him on the air: “Don Pardo, tell her what she’s won!” His only real competition was a guy named Johnny Olson, who announced all the Mark Goodson-Bill Todman game shows and THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW. Olson’s was the very excitable tenor voice that made a catchphrase out of the words “COME ON DOWN!”

So, in 1975, when Lorne Michaels hired Pardo to announce SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (originally called NBC’S SATURDAY NIGHT) it was certainly through a gauze of irony. The hippest thing on tv, billboarded by an ancient Mr. Game Show? And Pardo did indeed have enemies among the hipsters, including the curmudgeonly Michael O’Donoghue, who also loathed the Muppets with which he was forced to share the stage in the early days. When O’Donoghue briefly took over after the disastrous Jean Doumanian season, he tried to throw Pardo out along with the rest of the “old guard,” including longtime director Dave Wilson.

But Pardo and his strange stretched syllables had already become as totemic to SNL as Lorne himself. The record will show that Don Pardo billboarded every single SNL episode for 38 seasons, missing only season 7, when Lorne too was gone, even though Pardo flubbed the name of the “Not Ready For Prime Time Players” on the first live broadcast. (There were a few more flubs that night, making the experiment even more thrilling: it was actually live.)

I’d wager most everybody who has ever been connected with the show, even those who hated the experience – and there are plenty of them – have “something in their eye” right now in memory of Don Pardo. Even we simple fans do. He was the sound of American comedy through thick and thin, his dulcet tones matching and encouraging our own excitement. Goodbye, Mr. Pardo, and please give our regards to Belushi after first slapping him around a bit for leaving us far too young. You showed us, and told us, how to do it right.

9/19/14: Today we learned that former longtime cast member Darrell Hammond, the impressionist who actually subbed for Don Pardo a couple of times when the elder voice was ill (and completely fooled us!) will be SNL’s new announcer, but as himself: the “Don Pardo voice” will be permanently retired out of respect.

Christopher Jones, 1941-2014

February 9, 2014

joneswildWhat a fascinating career had Mr. Christopher Jones. Blazingly handsome – even we straight guys noticed! – he made his bones on tv but then got cast in a low-budget AIP satire called WILD IN THE STREETS and became a mini-icon in 1968, the perfect year to do such a thing.

Robert Thom’s script is about a rebellious kid who grows up to become a pop star and then takes the next logical step: he literally turns celebrity into power. He sponsors rallies, elects a Senator, lowers the voting age to 15, and finally installs “Max Frost” as President, at which point he declares 30 to be the mandatory retirement age and sends all geezers to LSD-fueled sunset camps. Hilarious – unless you’re a geezer yourself.

WILD IN THE STREETS is a monster movie in which the monsters are normal coddled boomer kids. We saw it as a goof, and our parents never heard of it, so there goes your satire. (Except for the final scene, in which a young groovily-raised tyke acquires camera and says, “We’re gonna put everybody over ten out of business.” Haw haw….huh?)

Chris Jones, the “new James Dean,” was the drive-in crowd’s faux hero because of this role, and we completely understood it was faux, even down to the Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil songs Chris was hurriedly lip-synching. (One of them, “The Shape Of Things To Come” – thanx, H.G. Wells! – actually became a for-real pop hit, credited on the single to “Max Frost and the Troopers”!) Here’s Chris’s lip-synch from the movie.

But we drank in his next pic, the ludicrous THREE IN THE ATTIC, and then the classier THE LOOKING GLASS WAR, and no less than David Lean was also seduced, hiring Chris for RYAN’S DAUGHTER. (I think Lean came to regret his casting decision.) Chris retired from acting and became a hermit anent showbiz.

Quentin Tarantino, who’s perfectly aware of everything I’ve just written, begged Chris to come out of retirement for PULP FICTION: he wanted him to play Zed, the redneck sadist role that eventually went to Peter Greene. Only Larry Bishop, Joey’s son and his old WILD IN THE STREETS mate, could coax Chris out for a limp, incomprehensible mob story called MAD DOG TIME. I thought he looked and sounded fine, just profoundly disinterested.

Goodbye, Chris. If you knew who you were to a sliver of boomers, then I hope that could possibly make you happy once in a while. If it made you sad instead, then I feel complicit, but there the film is; I’d rather just sing “14 Or Fight” once more. My very fondest wish is much simpler. I truly hope you didn’t care.

10/1/16: A nice piece by no less than J. Hoberman on the release of a new Blu-Ray transfer. It looks great.

Phil Everly, 1939-2014

January 4, 2014
Don (l.) and Phil, the Everly Brothers.

Don (l.) and Phil, the Everly Brothers.

Two-part harmony is about as far as I got in my autodidactic musicology classes. After all, I had a lousy teacher. I didn’t even know enough to re-string my guitar for leftie play, because the chords I taught myself were from sheet-music books and I thought that was how the fretboard was supposed to look. My torturous mirror-image F chord, requiring one finger to act as a bar across all the strings, is painful for rightie (that is, almost all) guitarists to watch. But then, they have their own carpal troubles with a G, which is easy as pie for me.

Harmony, though? Two-part. I had the ear and could even improvise. Get into three parts, though, like Peter, Paul & Mary, and you’ve gone beyond my music teacher’s abilities: Crosby, Stills & Nash sound absolutely magical. This two-part synapse was fried into my brain by Don and Phil, the Everly Brothers.

I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia while the transistor (i.e., wireless) radio was the hottest electronic toy. We went to the beach a lot. There were only two Top Forty stations in town: WNOR and WGH (the call letters stand for World’s Greatest Harbor). Grade-schoolers like me could walk up and down the beach and hear an unbroken stream of music, like the underscore in AMERICAN GRAFFITI: whenever one station went to commercial, all the little cigarette-pack-sized radios whirred to the other one. That was my education in late Fifties/early Sixties rock & roll. It was planted in the back of my mind, but it stuck, and now I can still remember every note of, say, that stuttering sax solo on the Coasters’ “Yakety Yak.”

The Everlys were kings of that scene. As was Sting much later, they were gifted with sharp, clear voices that cut through the muddy transmission of AM radio. They were pitch-perfect, and they meshed together so well that you couldn’t tell which singer was which Everly. We wouldn’t hear that again until Simon & Garfunkel, who modeled their sound on the Everlys and even included a live version of “Bye Bye Love” as their “so-long” piece on their final album together.

The last time I saw Phil, who passed away yesterday, was on stage at Madison Square Garden ten years ago. Their acolyte Paul Simon, who was touring again with his old partner and antagonist (which of them was really Don and which was Phil?), took a mid-show break, but not before announcing, “Ladies and gentlemen, Don and Phil, the Everly Brothers!” Their four-song mini-set destroyed the audience, most of whom hadn’t been around in the day. As I recall, they ended with “Bye Bye Love,” and their benefactors regained the stage to join in. But by that time I was weeping with joy and could hardly hear a thing.

Peter O’Toole, 1932-2013

December 16, 2013

faveForget T. E. Lawrence. Forget King Henry. Forget any sonorous display of Shakespearean angst. I will remember Peter O’Toole instead for the 1982 movie in which he played Errol Flynn – um, I mean Alan Swann – and set a new standard for comedic courage.

MY FAVORITE YEAR is sly and clever, just like the zoo-cageful of comedy writers it depicts working on something very much like the pioneering Sid Caesar (in the film, “King Kaiser”) variety show. This was where soon-to-be-legendary young writers including Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and Mel Tolkin passed through their crucible of fire trying to please the imperious, appropriately-named Caesar (done to goombah perfection here by Joseph Bologna). A more polite, milquetoast version of the same writers’ room is the office setting of the old Dick Van Dyke show, but this depiction is rawer and funnier as the weisenheimers keep topping each other, to their and our delight.

However, the back-and-forth amusement leaps into gasping peals of laughter the instant this week’s guest star arrives: a roaring-drunk (I’m talking LION IN WINTER roaring!) past-his-prime star of classic swashbuckler movies who welcomes himself by doing a forward flip and passing out on the writers’ conference table. Say, who is that clown who’ll try anything for a laugh? You can’t take your eyes off Peter O’Toole, and he’s the star of the show even when he’s off screen.

As in any good sitcom, there are several plot fireworks going off at once. The junior writer, “the Kid” (played by Mark Linn-Baker), a devoted Alan Swann fan, is assigned to keep O’Toole as sober as possible until show time. Meanwhile, he’s trying to make time with a cute colleague. Then there’s a neglected-daughter undercurrent that O’Toole uses brilliantly to prevent the character from becoming a two-dimensional cartoon. Finally, he’s a veteran ladykiller, perhaps weary of the grind but nonetheless taking advantage of his stardom in two gorgeous setpieces: in a ritzy nightclub and, over the Kid’s mortified objections, at his working-class mother’s Brooklyn apartment (Lainie Kazan, who kills in this role, welcomes Swann to her “humble chapeau”).

The director, Richard Benjamin, who earns a lifetime achievement award for MY FAVORITE YEAR alone, understands that it’s a story composed of wonderful little sketch-comedy moments (true fans can quote them all), and it’s O’Toole who has most of them. You can consider a line on the page and wonder how it would have sounded coming from a lesser throat. In his first scene, while Swann is passed out, King Kaiser wants to fire the sot immediately, but the Kid successfully pleads for him, even bets against a crotchety old writer that he can make it all work. We didn’t think Swann was listening, but after he’s righted, his exit line is, “Double the lad’s bet for me, you toad.” (Later, he explains: “There’s out, and there’s out.”) Nobody could have landed those words better.

The one line that everybody remembers comes when Swann discovers, after the final dress rehearsal, that the King Kaiser show will be broadcast live. No retakes. His eyes get as big as they were when he woke from a boozy night with two cute stewardesses to discover a teddy bear in their bed, in his hands. He swings his prop sword in terror and bellows, “I’m not an actor! I’m a movie star!”

What other actor of O’Toole’s stature could have retained an amount of boozy dignity (when Swann’s sober, he is dashing, and his requested nightclub dance with a radiant Gloria Stuart, whose featured roles ranged from THE INVISIBLE MAN years earlier to James Cameron’s TITANIC years later, is quite touching) while searching for the nearest banana peel? And what other actor of any stature could play so broadly and still deliver a fully realized, fully understandable, fully human interpretation? Alan Swann earned O’Toole his seventh Oscar nomination. And as we pay tribute to the distinguished career of a magnificent artist, I’ll have to be honest: that’s the role I’ll recall with the greatest fondness. Farewell, lad. You were both an actor and a movie star.

2/12/14: And today we learned that Sid Caesar himself has passed away. Ave atque vale.

Blockbuster Video, 1985-2013

November 7, 2013

BlockbusterI missed Blockbuster, by and large, so I won’t really miss it. But millions of others won’t miss it for an entirely different set of reasons.

In 1980, while waiting for the result of the home video format war (ask your parents), I became one of the first kids on my block to own a VHS videocassette recorder/player. I guessed right; though VHS was technologically inferior to Betamax, its cassettes held more stuff, and that was enough for me and the non-Sony world. This machine changed my life – and, as it turned out, the entire culture’s. Not only could I record ordinary tv programs to watch later (the eggheads instantly gave that phenomenon a fancy name: “time shifting”), but they also included, if I so chose, uncut and uninterrupted movies off HBO, or classic flicks that aired at 3 in the morning: I could set the thing like an alarm clock! How useful this would have been while I was struggling through my Master’s thesis on Fifties monster movies. They’ve gone about as fer as they kin go, said I.

As with television a generation prior, Hollywood had no vision of the future and its knee-jerk reaction was to fight home video tooth and nail. In 1976, Universal and Disney brought suit against poor Sony, alleging that home video recording amounted to piracy; by the time the matter finally reached the Supreme Court eight years later and time-shifting off the air was judged to be fair use, the practice had grown so widespread that the legal action was basically moot, now enriching only lawyers.

In the meantime, of course, the studios were taking big chomps of the new home video pie themselves. They began to issue official, “studio-struck” versions of their most popular movies. Fox Home Video was a pioneer: I remember being astonished to see PLANET OF THE APES, PATTON and M*A*S*H shown at people’s homes during parties (the serious film and tv production guys all had Betamaxes early on). At one such bash at my friend Dave Adcock’s, 2001 played with the sound off, and you could see people taking quick glances over your shoulder. Far from ruining the movie business, home video revenue came to carry the biz on its back – you made more money on home entertainment than on the theatrical release – and continued to do so until very recently.

Renting videocassettes, in both Beta and VHS formats, was the next logical step – after all, most adults only want to see a movie once – and it sprang up in thousands of mom-and-pop stores, located in strip malls and lesser venues, DIY-shabby but cute, like independent comics stores. Mine was called Video Station, owned by a wonderful movie fan named Curtis. The first time I walked in, I was gobsmacked at the choices I had, for movies I could see tonight. I simply must share this with others, I said.

So, every Friday night for several years, I screened a movie at my house. Ten or fifteen friends came over to watch – the audience was constantly changing and self-regenerating – and we loved having our own private movie theater. After the first few weeks, one of my neighbors timidly came to the door and said, “Sorry, but we just have to know what you do on Friday nights. All these cars pull up in your driveway and on the street. Then you turn off all the lights, and we can’t hear a thing!” Remember, VCRs weren’t very common back then. Once I explained that we were all watching a movie, it made sense. Hope nobody had wondered whether I was hosting the world’s most boring coven.

I was such a reliable customer that Curtis would give me a peek at release schedules and let me have pre-dibs on new movies, which were appearing on tape even before their pay-cable runs. One Friday his delivery ran late and he personally drove the cassette over to my house just as people were beginning to arrive for the movie. (He declined a beer, but accepted our warm applause.) This was the state of home video rental in the early Eighties: warm, personal service, hand-selling (Curtis recommended most of the lesser-known films we screened, just as Quentin Tarantino did at his video store out in California), the same qualities you want in a good independent bookseller. Video life was sweet.

Then, in 1985, a Dallas businessman named David Cook decided to take the concept wide. Mom-and-pop video stores were starting to add locations and develop into local and regional “chains,” but Cook’s eyes were bigger, and Blockbuster was born. Wayne Huizenga executed its national rollout: it quickly added videogames, swallowed up smaller companies and opened new stores aggressively, aided by a virtuous circle in which floods of new customers were entering the movie-rental market every week. Less than ten years after its founding, the now-ubiquitous Blockbuster was big enough to seriously propose a merger with Viacom.

Now all the homegrown Video Stations were out of business, and everybody was dealing with Blockbuster (there were 9,000 stores at its peak in 2004) or a franchise just like it. Oligopoly bred complacency as video rental became a typical weekend’s afterthought. Blockbuster customers were treated to a shelf full of thirty display cases of that weekend’s new release, all of them already rented. There was little quality control over returned rentals; you wondered exactly what some people had been doing with them. And then there were the late fees. You couldn’t ignore them like some did with their library books, because Blockbuster had your credit card. Grumbling about Blockbuster became a national pastime (especially when it appeared that late fees constituted a profit center), but its business model was already mortally wounded.

Those late fees inspired a Blockbuster customer named Reed Hastings to think of a new business model, and what he came up with was Netflix, which opened in 1997, concentrating on the new DVD format. There was no store; you ordered your movies via the Internet and got them through the mail. And – here’s the master stroke – you paid a monthly fee to have a certain number of disks at your house for as long as you wanted. The company got a reliable stream of revenue without having to charge late fees! Netflix subsisted on mail-order while it quietly broadened its “streaming” capability, and lately has even moved into original programming, the very thing which has kept HBO afloat all these years. Fun fact: in 2000, Netflix offered itself to Blockbuster for $50 million, and was turned down.

So why do you need Blockbuster anymore? Hmmm: you don’t. Yesterday the company’s current owners announced that it will close its remaining 300 company-owned stores by early January. That will leave only about fifty franchisee-run stores, and they’d better watch their backs, because the brand name’s “goodwill” has long since been used up. Entertainment is still big business, but the way it’s delivered to our eyeballs is constantly mutating and adapting to fit new technology. Blockbuster controlled the golden goose for 25 years, but these days it’s about as relevant as a Commodore 64 – and I know plenty of former customers who are just fine with that.

11/9/13: Variety reports, “Blockbuster has sent out tweets over the last several days alerting customers it will stop renting movies on Nov. 9, with most stores starting to liquidate inventory on Nov. 14.” (Note to Rand Paul: this is how you quote somebody without plagiarizing them.)

11/11/13: The funnest fact of all: Variety reports that the last movie rented from a company-owned Blockbuster store was THIS IS THE END. (First half: amusing. Last half: embarrassing. Kind of like Blockbuster itself!)

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