Leading futurist Orlando Covington-McDonald has publicly apologised for his 1978 prediction that home video stores would make cinema-going obsolete. In a short, elegiac essay published on his website, Covington-McDonald describes the moment he finally acknowledged defeat.
I was out walking early this morning. Not to get the newspaper, whose demise I forecast in 1976, but to enjoy the crisp morning air before it is forever tarnished by the climatic changes I wrote about in the late 1960s.
I came to the high street which, in ten years’ time, will be crowded with restaurants offering authentic Uzbek, Turkmenistani and Maldivian cuisine. There, I spotted my local video store. The Cinema of Convenience, as I had termed it long ago. The Home of a Century of Saturday Nights.
The War on Cinema did not end as quickly or as successfully as I had predicted. In the mid-1980s, when cinema attendances were at historic lows and home video rentals soared, it looked as if the war was already won. Indeed, I held a Mission Accomplished party in my courtyard which, in hindsight, was not only premature but wildly misguided.
“Hang in there, my dream-renting friend,” I said to myself, as I approached the window of the video store. But, as I glanced through the shatterproof glass, I saw packing boxes where a wall of new releases should have been. And, as if it were written just for me, a sign in the wavering hand of someone about to flee for the last departing helicopter: WE ARE NOW CLOSED. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT OVER THE YEARS.
I realise that video stores have been closing down for some time but, like a foreign war, it seemed something that was happening far away. The war has arrived on my doorstep and I know now that it is over. Across the city, there are cinemas. Divided like the education system, for sure – cineplexes for the superhero-worshipping masses, inner city Kinos serving glasses of wine to those with richer tastes. But still, there are cinemas. If there are video stores, I will now need a taxi or an airfare to get to them.
Cinema still has – and will have – other rivals. But these are new races, new contests, for which I forgot to get my tips in. The video store is vanquished and another part of the future that I so boldly forecast is gone with it.
Futurism is a tough game and, like many public endeavours, history will be the judge. I have backed some losers in my time – laser disc players, self-salted potato chips, Saffron Burrows – and the video store is just another. But as Chumbawamba sang – and, yes, I was wrong about them too – I get knocked down, I get up again, but you nay ever gonna keep me down.
Best of luck in the future.
On a more upbeat note, Covington-Smith has reaffirmed his prediction about Triple J’s Hottest 100 Australian Albums of All Time.