I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw the “STORE CLOSING” signs at our neighborhood Blockbuster, but I was.

Back when Jenny and I first got married in 2003 and lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Euless, we paid many visits to that Blockbuster store for DVDs and PS2 games. Pizza and a $5 movie or game rental made a perfect date night. Blu-Ray hadn’t been released yet. I don’t think the whole streaming-video thing was popular yet. (for context, I also didn’t text, Cingular – remember them? – was our cell phone provider, and I still hard-coded my blog in HTML) We spent a lot of time in that Blockbuster trying to decide what to rent.

Even though we never went there anymore, it’s still weird to think the store will soon be gone. But times change, and Blockbuster didn’t keep up.

As a society, our movie watching preferences have changed significantly. After completely taking over the video-rental market not too many years ago, Blockbuster is currently in bankruptcy protection and looking for a buyer. The Blockbuster model of large neighborhood video and game rental stores is dying out, made obsolete by two new models. One is RedBox, the movie vending machines you can find at Wal-Mart, gas stations, and other locations. For $1/day, you can pick up a movie while doing another errand and then keep it as long as you please. I’ve never tried RedBox, but Jenny’s parents really like it.

The other model is Netflix, a hybrid of mail-order and streaming media. It began by shipping out movies and TV shows on DVD. As bandwidth became cheaper and high-speed internet connections because common, it added the ability to stream video to a computer or advanced gaming system such as a Wii or Playstation 3. Blockbuster tried to catch up to Netflix with its own mail-order service called Blockbuster Online, but Netflix just did it better. Its operating costs are lower, largely due to its lack of stores, its website is better, and the service is more reliable.

We used Blockbuster Online for a while and switched to Netflix perhaps two years ago. Now that we have kids, we mainly stream cartoons through the Wii to keep Brenden still during his breathing treatments. It works extremely well. Sometimes we stream movies for ourselves as well as workout videos or TV shows. We also get 1 DVD at a time through the mail, which I generally watch at night while the family is asleep. One thing Netflix doesn’t offer is game rentals, but the rest of the service is so great, I’ll give them a pass. For us, it’s about $10/month, the cost of two old-school Blockbuster rentals with much less hassle. If you’re on the fence, I strongly recommend giving it a try.

Any of you use Netflix?