Robot 6

Blockbuster to close remaining 300 U.S. stores

blockbusterBlockbuster, a video-rental chain that at its peak in 2004 had more than 9,000 stores and as many as 60,000 employees, will close its remaining 300 U.S. locations by the first of the year.

Owner Dish Network, which bought the already-struggling company in a 2011 bankruptcy auction announced this morning it will also end the Blockbuster By Mail service in mid-December and shutter its distribution centers. According to Reuters, 2,800 employees will lose their jobs.

As with the decline of music stores that preceded it, the death of Blockbuster is being attributed to the rise of digital (in particular, Netflix), which curiously enough — and despite fears to the contrary — hasn’t appeared to harm another specialty channel: direct-market comic stores. In fact, all indications appear to point to digital helping print sales. Could it be that comic shops, long the subjects of apocalyptic predictions, end up as the last ones standing?

“This is not an easy decision,” Dish CEO Joseph P. Clayton said in a statement, “yet consumer demand is clearly moving to digital distribution of video entertainment.”

It may not have been easy, but neither was it unexpected (it’s likely some readers didn’t realize Blockbuster was still around): When Dish bought Blockbuster in 2011, the once-ubiquitous chain had just 1,700 locations; by January, all that will remain are the 50 stores owned third-party franchisees. However, as The New York Times notes, they too are struggling to compete with digital.

Ironically, perhaps, Clayton said that despite the closings, “we continue to see value in the Blockbuster brand, and we expect to leverage that brand as we continue to expand our digital offerings.” Dish still operates the Blockbuster @Home streaming service and Blockbuster On Demand.

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6 Comments

Before I had cable and video-on-demand, I used to go to Blockbuster at least once a week. It was pretty much the thing to do in the ’90s, IMO. I’m sad to see it go mainly out of adolescent nostalgia, but I had really stopped going to Blockbuster years ago.

Even though the article states the rise of digital as the reason for Blockbuster’s demise, there’s also the Red Box kiosks, which stole a lot of Blockbuster’s thunder by being located almost everywhere you turn at a cheaper price.

God I remember going with my mum after my half days at school to get a movie 10 years ago when I was 7. Ugh I feel old now, I shouldn’t feel old.

I worked at Blockbuster from 2006-2011. It was my first job, actually. There were a lot of politics that strangled the corporate side of things but I met a lot of great people, customers and co-workers, and it’s definitely an end of an era for me. The brand itself is a powerful tool. I could see Dish Network retooling it to be a real digital brand entity.

Back when I lived in Alaska, Blockbuster was a godsend. It got us through a lot of cold, dark, snowy nights.

I still went to Blockbuster pretty regularly when I moved back to the lower 48, until I noticed that the three BBs in my town suddenly ALL closed within a few months of each other. By that point, we’d discovered Redbox anyway….

“As with the decline of music stores that preceded it, the death of Blockbuster is being attributed to the rise of digital (in particular, Netflix), which curiously enough — and despite fears to the contrary — hasn’t appeared to harm another specialty channel: direct-market comic stores. In fact, all indications appear to point to digital helping print sales. Could it be that comic shops, long the subjects of apocalyptic predictions, end up as the last ones standing?”

I think the main difference is that the the way the user actually interacts with the medium fundamentally changes with digital, but it doesn’t with the others. Whether you stream a movie over the internet or watch a DVD, the effect is the same: you’re watching a movie on your TV in your living room, only now you don’t have to leave the house. Same with music downloading…you still listen to it over the same headphones, on the same car stereo, whatever. But with comics (and prose books!), reading them on a computer monitor or tablet is a just a different experience than reading a physical book. And if you want a physical book–which the digital delivery system, try as it might, can never 100% replicate–you either have to go drive to a store and buy it, or pay to have it shipped to you.

It’s weird…I’ve embraced digital, and I really enjoy reading comics through Comixology on an iPad, but only certain kinds of comics. I mostly only like it for what I kind of consider throwaway stuff, the kind of stuff that I want to read a ton of in big chunks as fast as possible, which also (perhaps more notably) happens to be stuff I’m happy to pay 99 cents for but would never pay full price for. Big runs of old superhero comics, mostly, although for whatever reason I really prefer reading “Morning Glories” in the digital format.

Anyway, RIP, Blockbuster. I was a religious devotee to your stores in the late ’90s, when you were in the only place in the universe you could easily track down anime. I paid you a fortune in late fees, too…hope you put them to good use!

Thank God, comic stores are still there.

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