After years of financial difficulties, struggling to maintain relevancy in the current marketplace, and steadily dwindling retail presence, one-time video rental powerhouse Blockbuster Video finally announced this week that it will close its last 300 remaining stores and its DVD-by-mail business within the next few months. I bet a lot of our readers are surprised to learn that this didn’t already happen years ago.
In its prime, which lasted a very long time, Blockbuster was the dominant video rental chain in North America. Unfortunately, the company grew complacent in its success, and was blindsided by new, innovative competitors such as Netflix and Redbox, which quickly overtook its market share. Due to a lack of management vision, Blockbuster was very slow to respond by developing its own discs-by-mail, rental kiosks and internet streaming options – and even when those did come, they simply weren’t compelling enough to lure back the customers who’d already moved on. As a result, Blockbuster stores across the nation shuttered their doors until the franchise shrank to its current state, just a shadow of its former self. And now, even that’s going away.
Technically, the Blockbuster brand isn’t completely dead just yet. Current owners at Dish Network will maintain the Blockbuster On Demand and Blockbuster @Home streaming services. However, critics point out that the title selection available by either of those methods doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of Netflix, VUDU or HULU. Even this final aspect of the business might not last too much longer.
As I’m sure is true of many of our readers, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, Blockbuster was always a kind of crummy company. As the big bully in its field, Blockbuster aggressively, almost gleefully drove many of its smaller competitors, including countless local mom-and-pop video stores, out of business over the years. In doing so, it left many markets with no video rental options other than Blockbuster, whose stores were typically poorly stocked, badly mismanaged, and often staffed with underpaid employees who knew or cared little about the movies they were shilling.
On the other hand, I have a lot of nostalgic memories of trolling the Blockbuster aisles, perusing the alluring VHS cover art to find a movie to watch on many a lazy evening in my youth.
Perhaps more importantly, the death of Blockbuster also signals the imminent death of the video store as an industry or an institution. Admittedly, internet streaming may be more convenient, but there was something special about the experience of going to a good (non-Blockbuster) video store and getting a movie recommendation from a knowledgeable clerk. Will my kids ever have that experience? Probably not.
What are your memories of Blockbuster – good, bad or indifferent? Share them in the Comments below.
[Source: USA Today.]