Blockbuster Officially Closes: The End of an Era?

Blockbuster Logo When’s the last time you went to a Blockbuster to rent a movie? Probably not this year – and after this week, you never will again. Blockbuster has now closed its doors, leaving a lot of people speculating that brick-and-mortar video rentals are officially dead. Let’s take a closer look at just what went wrong.

Blockbuster’s Demise

If you’re a fan of the old ways of renting videos, then sources will probably tell you that you’re out of luck. After Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011, critics thought it was only a matter of time. One of the major ways that Blockbuster tried to make a comeback after filing for bankruptcy was to implement a disc by mail rental service, similar to the one that Netflix pioneered.

So where did it go wrong? The Blockbuster model seems like it’s just not working anymore. Between the streaming options available on sites like Netflix, Amazon, and even Apple, and the video by mail offer still available on Netflix, Blockbuster just seemed to be lagging behind its competition. Additionally, rental kiosk Redbox has taken over by storm, conquering the business of kiosk rentals by buying out the contracts of NCR Corporation – which had previously operated the Blockbuster kiosks.

Problems With Digital Video

As it turns out, though, the distinct dissipation of physical video rental stores has given way to a number of issues for a lot of people who want to rent movies – namely the lack of selection. What subscription streaming services like Netflix and day-to-day rental kiosks like Redbox don’t offer is a wide range of options.

So where does that leave the rest of us? A lot of people pirate content online, but the average law-abiding person who wants to find video content in a more legitimate way is left high and dry. In this Indiana Jones example, a frustrated former Blockbuster customer could not find what he was looking for as a rental, and would have had to shell out $45 for the four-film series on iTunes if he wanted instant video. Choice is the major loss with the demise of Blockbuster, and the frustration is showing. Films like those in the Star Wars series and other classic titles are glaringly absent from all of the above streaming databases or the limited few dozen titles available at kiosks. So what to do?

Where Video Rental is Still Going Strong

Some business models have found their niche. Interestingly enough, some Blockbuster locations haven’t closed down in one particular state – Alaska. The Blockbuster business model in Alaska is still going strong, largely because of a definitive lack of internet connection that supports heavy-duty use of the internet, such as streaming video.

Smaller businesses are still thriving. My own hometown of Portland, Maine’s VideoPort is a wonderful independently own rental shop, where the extensive selection is almost mind-blowing – from tons of international and independent films to the latest box office hits, it’s a spot that has a lot going for it, and tends to be bustling during early weekend evenings.

Similarly, the chain Family Video is still going strong, with 700 locations in the Midwest and in Canada. Company president Keith Hoogland says that with his stores, the attention to customer service has kept the business not just afloat but thriving. With negotiable late fees, free rentals for children, and less than $3 per rental, amicable customer service is at the forefront for this business. In the same vein, VideoPort offers daily specials on different types of films, which provide incentives for customers to try out new types of movies that they might not have otherwise considered.

All in all, my hunch is that the demise of Blockbuster and some smaller independent video rental shops is not necessarily the end of an era – but what do you think?

Do you think that brick-and-mortar video rental shops are done for, or could the small business model help it make a comeback?

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Tree is a somewhat nomadic graduate student pursuing an MFA in Poetry and Literary Translation from Drew University. A self-identified “diplobrat,” she spent over 16 years living as an expat in countries like Guatemala, Bolivia, and Tanzania. Tree graduated from Smith College in 2012 with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature, a minor in Studio Art, and a concentration in Landscape Studies. In between writing poetry for school and content for CEM, she dabbles in goat herding and freelancing. Other interests include reading, watercolor painting, gardening, and traveling.

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