Blockbusted: The Rise and Fall of a Video Chain

How America's iconic store went from ubiquity to insolvency

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Buried under a billion dollars of debt, Blockbuster Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday. The video rental giant's demise has been a long time coming (and some think it will never recover). Now, as the company begins a massive restructuring process, pundits analyze Blockbuster's past and present:

  • From Indispensable to Irrelevant  Ryan Lawler at Gigaom tracks the arc of Blockbuster's existence: "Blockbuster’s early value proposition when it opened its first store 25 years ago was relatively revolutionary, as it provided consumers local access to thousands of movie titles all in one place. It was by no means the first video rental company, but it achieved scale in a way no one else did, using its vast reach to dominate the video rental landscape and drive hundreds of local mom-and-pop video stores out of business. For many, Blockbuster provided the convenience of a one-stop shop for nearly any video title one would hope to watch. But over the years, viewers and viewing habits have changed in a way that made Blockbuster less relevant. It’s no longer enough to provide users with a way to get content from a store down the street; nowadays, they want access to that content in their living rooms. At first the mail, and then online video gave them that access."

  • Long Fall From Grace, writes Mae Anderson at the Associated Press: "Blockbuster has been losing money and market share for years as Netflix, Redbox and other services gained popularity. Netflix subscribers have grown from 1 million in 2002 to 15 million in 2010. Redbox, meanwhile, operated 26,900 kiosks as of the end of June. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter predicts that number will exceed 28,000 by the end of September. In response, Blockbuster ended late fees and started online and kiosk services of its own. But it was unable to keep its debt in check. Blockbuster, based in Dallas, earlier this year said it would close hundreds of stores and said it was struggling with liquidity problems. It had warned investors it might file for bankruptcy protection and was delisted in early July by the New York Stock Exchange."

  • This Graph Pretty Much Explains Everything says Meg Marco at The Consumerist:

  • There Was a Power Struggle Within the Company, writes Ryan Fleming at Digital Trends: "The news of Blockbuster preparing for bankruptcy kicked off a quiet struggle to determine who would control the fate of the re-structured company. Last week that battle ended when corporate raider Carl Ichan managed to purchase one-third of Blockbuster’s debt, guaranteeing that he will be the driving force behind the restructuring, or at least be in a position to block any plans that he disapproves of."

  • Hollywood May Prop Up Blockbuster, writes Ben Patterson at Yahoo! News: "Though studios like 20th Century Fox, Warner Home Video and Sony Pictures will get stiffed as a result of Blockbuster’s bankruptcy filing, Hollywood execs have an interest in keeping Blockbuster afloat: Namely, they don’t want Netflix to get too high and mighty now that Blockbuster is on the ropes."

  • This Is Bad for Everyone, adds Patterson: "This is no time to be gloating about Blockbuster’s ill fortune. While I’m no great fan of Blockbuster (I tossed my membership card more than a decade ago), competition is good. And in the interest of keeping the big guys — namely Netflix and Redbox — honest, I’d like to see as many players in the DVD rental game as possible."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.