So it looks like Blockbuster Video is finally out of business due to not being able to catch up with competitors such as Netflicks and Redbox (this is not even mentioning the indirect competition of torrent sites such as Pirate Bay). Even with investors from Dish Network taking over the business in 2011, they were not able to make it.
Blockbuster was a symbolic element of my childhood because I had fond memories of renting movies and games there as a kid and young adult. Back in the 90’s, my parents owned a restaurant next to Blockbuster and I used to go there to look at movies and SNES games while waiting for my mom or dad to get off work and take me home. The Blockbuster was in a strip mall in Columbus Ohio right off Sawmill Rd. which was also where my Parent’s restaurant was located. At this time, video rentals were $5 for three days, I believe, yet people were willing to pay. For me, the 90’s were fun times as my father would always allow me access to his Blockbuster rental card and I would always rent one game for the weekend. Needless to say, those were fond memories.
Back in 2004 when I discovered DVD burning technology through my girlfriend at the time. This was when Blockbuster started marketing a program where you could sign up for an unlimited weekly video membership. Needless to say, I took advantage of it and my girlfriend and I took full advantage of this and we would rent movies like crazy and burn them onto DVDs. I know I may sound like a hypocrite for bringing this up, but technology was indeed one of the greatest downfalls of video rental businesses. But then again, people were still recording movies to VHS before DVD burning technology was available so perhaps it was just poor marketing decisions and competition that killed them because prices went down and no longer are rentals $5 for three days, but instead $1 a day or unlimited rentals at $10 for a week.
Even though we had an unlimited video rental membership, there were still not very many movies to choose from as Blockbuster only seemed to carry new releases and hardly anything else, you were not really able to get cool, underground movies. Another issue was the fact that DVDs were easy to scratch and we often ended up with movies that skipped (renter abuse was probably another reason why they lost money).
Then came torrent sites such as Bit Torrent, Demonoid and Pirate Bay, which made movies a lot easier to obtain, albeit in a lesser video and audio quality as these movies were often ripped to mpeg format (which meant you could copy them onto a CD at 700MB). With the release of the Terabyte hard drives, you could easily store a ton of movies and TV shows for about $100.
In spite of the ability to pirate movies, I don’t think this was what lead to Blockbuster’s demise. RedBox certainly was a bit more convenient since you don’t need a membership card (just a valid credit card) and you can find one outside every grocery store and when I was dating this one girl back in 2011, we would always pick up a movie at a RedBox right after doing some grocery shopping for wine and snacks. Then we would snuggle up and watch movies while drinking wine. RedBox was just convenient and you could just drive up to the curbside and drop off your movies at any RedBox without having to wait in line.
I suppose they made a valiant effort in their last stand, but alas, they were not able to hold out. RIP Blockbuster Video 1985 – 2013.