Blockbuster Video just couldn’t keep up with Netflix and is closing its doors for good. Yes, it’s the end of an era for the franchised movie rental business that brought hundreds of VHS tapes into our homes back in the 80’s and 90’s.
Dish Network, Blockbuster’s parent company, announcing on Wednesday that nearly all of the 300 remaining stores are set to close in early 2014. Distribution centers and the DVD-by-mail business that never quite took off thanks to Netflix are also shutting down. It’s the final curtain. Blockbuster’s swan song.
Instead, the Dish Network will focus all its efforts on the somewhat more popular Blockbuster on Demand streaming service. The service offers more than 15 channels such as Hallmark Movie Channel and Starz and over 20,000 movies in its catalog. There are a small amount of Blockbuster store owners, mostly in Alaska, who will continue to keep their stores open.
The truth of the matter is that Blockbuster just couldn’t keep up with Netflix. The original DVD-By-Mail service that began over a decade ago was puzzling to some. Who would want to order their DVDs online and have them delivered in the mail? Where was the instant gratification? But Netflix pushed on and became popular because it allowed busy movie watchers to keep the DVD for as long as they wanted. No late fees. No begging you to “please be kind and rewind.” Admittedly, a little hard for a DVD, but still. Once Netflix began adding video streaming it all but left Blockbuster in the dust.
Then came Redbox. Now this was an idea everyone could get behind. For only 99 cents a night you could rent a video from one of the many kiosks that popped up all over the country. Instant gratification, finally! Customers loved being able to browse through the current titles and bring the video home with them immediately. Blockbuster eventually figured out that if they were to keep up with the changing times then they had to change the way they delivered movies to their customers. But by then it was just too late.
Blockbuster came to us in the late 80’s, when just about every family on the block purchased their first VCR. The first storefront was opened in Dallas texas in October of 1985. By 1987 they expanded their services by offering video game rentals. Most towns in America had a Blockbuster. As soon as you walked in you felt as if you were actually in a movie theater. Most stores had several TVs playing the latest releases. The entire place smelled of popcorn and there was a hypnotic buzz that made customers feel happy. Nothing good lasts forever, and by 2010 more and more stores were closing down. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in late 2010. They were issued a slight reprieve in April of 2011 when Dish Network agreed to buy the company for $320 million. Dish announced that it would agree to keep 500 Blockbuster stores open at that time. A significant drop from the nearly 4,000 nationwide stores Blockbuster boasted at their peak.
Sadly, Blockbuster could not keep up with the ease of Netflix and Redbox. The appeal of not leaving your house and just clicking your mouse was too tempting. And it isn’t just Blockbuster that’s suffering. Many mom and pop video stores are also closing their doors. It’s truly the end of an era. Once more, for old time’s sake. Be kind. Rewind.
Mary Kay Love