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R.I.P. Blockbuster: Remaining US Stores to Be Closed

Blockbuster Video
David Friedman, Getty Images

After years of struggling against the odds and barely surviving in a rapidly changing world, Blockbuster announced that it’s officially set to close the remainder of its US stores. For some, this is a day or mourning. For others, a day of celebration. For all of us, it’s just a reminder that the way we consume media has changed so drastically and so quickly that the thought of Blockbuster going out of business would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

The chain announced Wednesday that it will be closing down it’s 300 or so remaining US store locations by early January, and Blockbuster By Mail will end mid-December. Its streaming and on-demand services, however, will stick around for the time being.

“Despite our closing of the physical distribution elements of the business, we continue to see value in the Blockbuster brand, and we expect to leverage that brand as we continue to expand our digital offerings,” said DISH President and CEO Joseph P. Clayton.

Founded in 1985, Blockbuster quickly became the face of the American movie rental market, operating 9,000 stores at the height of its popularity. For millions of movie fans, their love of cinema began with regular trips to their neighborhood store. No city, suburb or small town was complete without one. But some die-hard movie fans’ appreciation for the brand turned to hate over the years, as Blockbuster began censoring the movies on their shelves and forcing small chains and “Mom ‘n Pop” operations out of business.

Of course, Blockbuster’s demise can be directly attributed to the rise of Netflix, whose DVD shipping service and Instant Watch proved far more enticing to consumers. Netflix’s rise to power also created more competition in the form of Amazon streaming, Hulu Plus, Redbox and countless other services with which Blockbuster simply wasn’t able to compete. Its own too-little-too-late mail and streaming options failed to take off, and the past few years have seen the vast majority of the company’s stores close down.

So here we are, standing at the end of an era. We could argue all day about whether or not Blockbuster ultimately did more harm or more good to cinema. We could argue if the future of streaming rentals is better or worse. What we can’t argue is that Blockbuster was a fixture in the lives of countless movie lovers. It will be missed. It won’t be missed. But there is a gaping hole where it once was.

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