When I was a kid (and through most of my teenage years), renting a movie meant getting in the car and driving to the nearest video rental store. From there, you’d scan the shelves of video boxes for something that looked interesting enough to watch.
Once you settled on something, you’d take it to the front desk and check it out for a few days, much like you would a book at the library. If someone else had already rented the movie (or game, as the same was also true for video games) you wanted, well, you were simply out of luck and had to wait until they returned it.
Now, thanks to a clever bit of work from a trio of Netflix employees during the company's spring Hack Day, we can relive the experience (or get to try it for the first time, depending on your age).
The Netflix Zone, as it’s called, is an alternate Netflix viewing experience created for the HTC Vive headset. As you’ll see in the clip above, you can select from a number of videos from the virtual video shop. When you land on what you want to watch, just pick it up and the world around you will transform into a movie theater of sorts. Toss the video at the screen to begin watching.
What’s ironic here is that Netflix was instrumental in the demise of the local video store model. In fact, in 2000, Netflix chief Reed Hastings approached video store rental giant Blockbuster and offered to sell his business for a mere $50 million. Former Blockbuster CEO John Antioco reportedly felt Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service was a very niche business and decided to pass on the opportunity.
A decade later, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy and eventually sold its assets to Dish in 2011 for $228 million. Netflix, meanwhile, currently has a market cap of $41.1 billion. Just imagine what today’s media landscape would look like had Antioco agreed to buy Netflix.