The End of an Era, by Tyler Smith

1 Apr

The giant is wounded. Soon he will die.

I worked for Blockbuster Video for almost three years. During that time, I saw the company implement its “No Late Fees” policy and push its “Blockbuster On-Line” program. Since leaving the company, I have visited my old store in Chicago and was amazed at what I saw.

Posters. Toys. Video game controllers. These things were cluttering up shelves that were already choked with too many movies. And those movies were disheveled and out of order. The place was messy. I have gone to other Blockbuster stores and have found that this was not exclusive to my old store. Every location has become overloaded, understaffed, and generally not very welcoming.

There’s no question that, as far as video rental chains go, Blockbuster is still in first place. But Netflix has clearly taken its toll. As Blockbuster watched its customers slowly slip away, it tried its hardest to keep up. And, indeed, the “Blockbuster On-Line” program was an example of outside-the-box thinking, in which the company utilized its thousands of locations around the world to one-up the competition.

Unfortunately, this just meant that Blockbuster would be spending a lot of money in order to bring in a little. It didn’t work. Blockbuster stock tumbled. So, in a last ditch effort to stay afloat, Blockbuster has bought out other companies, and changed its business model to focus more on retail than rental.

As such, each location has acquired more and more stuff to cram into their already-full stores. What was once a company whose locations could be counted on to be clean and orderly has become just another place to buy useless junk, like action figures and bobble heads and pez dispensers and snow globes.

Oh, and I guess you could rent movies there, too. I mean, you know, if you really wanted to.

So, this is what Blockbuster has become. Once synonymous with “movie rental,” Blockbuster is slowly being replaced by the more modern and tech savvy Netflix. And its response is to slowly back away from what it once was.

In the video rental trade magazines, Blockbuster is referred to as “Big Blue,” a reference to their standing in the industry and their distinct colors. Unfortunately, these days, the company isn’t so big anymore. And, as Blockbuster’s standards have fallen and they’ve distanced themselves from the concept of movie rental, that blue color is starting to look awfully muddy.

Blockbuster will still be around for many years to come, but not as we once knew it. And, whether you liked the company or hated it, one thing is for sure. The eventual destruction of Blockbuster- which is looking more and more like it will be self inflicted- will mark the end of an era for film fans.

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