There was nothing quite like going to Blockbuster for a movie on Friday night. Rushing to see if there were any copies of the biggest release left for the night, walking the aisles with family/a friend/a date for the perfect find, buying some Nerds and a bag of microwave popcorn at the register in preparation for the perfect movie night at home.
Now, there’s a whisper of hope that some sort of nostalgic movie rental experience might be in our future, although what exactly it will look like isn’t clear yet at all. But we do know who’s going to be behind it: Netflix, the thing that revolutionized movie rentals in the first place.
According to a Bloomberg interview with Netflix Vice President of Consumer Products Josh Simon, the company has big plans for retail stores across the globe, but will start with two brick-and-mortar shops in two major cities in the United States, though they haven’t announced which two cities yet.
“We’ve seen how much fans love to immerse themselves in the world of our movies and TV shows,” Simon told Bloomberg. “And we’ve been thinking a lot about how we take that to the next level.”
The stores will be called “Netflix House” and the first two are scheduled to open sometime in 2025.
It’s also not at all clear what the stores will offer at the point. Simon said that fans will be able to “play, shop, and eat” at the locations, but that does not do much to answer the burning question of whether or not the public will have the opportunity for a nostalgic movie rental experience.
It’s also following a project where Netflix dipped their toes into doing things in real life instead of just Netflix and chilling in the basement. The streaming giant has been toying with pop-up stores around the world — like pop-up restaurants that serve the food of Netflix-featured chefs and pop-up merchandise stores that focus on their most popular shows, like Stranger Things.
The company also tried out a traveling show called The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience that gave audiences a live version of the popular steamy series.
When you talk to the experts, they say that all signs are pointing to Netflix moving toward a more Disney-like existence, where creating and streaming shows is just one slice of the pie — and they also build in-person stores, experiences, and entertainment opportunities that diversify what they do.
“Netflix is an ecosystem. It opened a merchandise shop a couple of years ago. It’s investing in mobile games. It’s more than just a place for your remote control to gravitate to at the end of a long day,” Rick Munarriz of The Motley Fool told NPR. “Success in the real world through location-based entertainment is the spoils of victory for a leading tastemaker. If Disney and NBC Universal can operate theme parks I give Netflix a decent shot of succeeding with this venture.”
So, while it’s not clear whether we’ll be able to rent movies in a store ever again, it seems like Netflix’s coming stores might be pretty fun, as well as a new chapter for the company.