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back to article Blockbuster winds itself into Chapter 11

Ageing slackers everywhere will be crying into their caramel popcorn today at the news that Blockbuster has slipped into Chapter 11 before forgetting what they were doing and walking over to the fridge for some cold pizza. The video rental chain, which was an essential part of early 1990s sofa culture, finally flaked out under …

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FAIL

Take that you theiving bastards!

May as well liquidate.

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Anonymous Coward

What goes around, comes around

I know a decent bloke who used to run a little video rental shop. he was well into his home cinema in the 80s, so still stocked videos to rent on Betamax and Laserdisc. He was doing all right, with a nice house, car and other luxuries.

Then Blockbuster opened a branch in the area and he lost the lot.

So he'll be loving this news, I suppose.

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Silver badge

Ditto...

Little video shop, stuffed with Beta, Laserdisc (you could even rent their player!), and some of the most delightfully obscure videos if you bothered to look beyond the "top 10", plus a lovely selection of "video nasties" for those of us that didn't want yet another Emilio Estevez film...

...until Blockbuster opened up practically across the street. People like myself remained faithful to the little guy, mostly because Blockbuster would rather die than offer the sort of tasteless subtitled gorefests that are hysterically funny after a few beers, but the masses want for where it was about 20p cheaper, a lot brighter, and they had a dozen copies of everything. Sheep.

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Err...

Do you shop at Tesco? (and Asda or Saindbury's) I stopped for exactly this reason. Too many local shops put out of business by big bully-boys.

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Boffin

Blockbuster is a good example of the business lifecycle

Corporations live a long time, but they all eventually die because they age like any other organism and get cancer: Professional Management.

If Blockbuster had even one executive with foresight, then they could have seen the opportunity, crushed Netflix and Redbox, and been healthy competition for things like Apple iTunes.

Imagine some of the conversations that happened in the Blockbuster boardroom: "The Internet will never catch on." "We're not a technology company." "Our customers want to browse physical product." "I never understand what those dweebs in IT are saying to me."

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Happy

The entire company? That's a lot of pizza!

"...Blockbuster has slipped into Chapter 11 before forgetting what they were doing and walking over to the fridge for some cold pizza."

I love the vagaries of our language!

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hmmmm

they were too greedy. rent a film for £4 or buy it 2 months later for £10

that and people like myself just joined lovefilm and you get about 20+ movies a month for £15

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JB

Dusty is right

Every Blockbuster (that's still open) that I've visited has been a dusty, musty hole, deathly quiet save for the broken air-conditioner. There's always a rack of VHS tapes in the corner, and even the DVDs look lie they've been there for 20 years. They've closed a few in my town, the only ones open seem to be in low-rent strip malls, the sort of place you wouldn't go near after 6pm. Face it, Blockbuster are going the same way that all the independent video shops went when they came to town...taste of their own medicine!

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Bronze badge

early days

I remember back in the early(ier) days of blockbuster(~1991), when I was a kid I knew the CEO/founder/something. Lonnie Williams(not sure if spelling is right), he used to send me quite a few free movie rental booklets, that was cool. Then the company ran into trouble and I don't know if they went into chapter 11 at that point as well before they were sold to some much bigger org.

I used one of the blockbuster kiosks on vacation a month or so ago it was my first time renting from such a device it was neat. It was also kind of sad that in the same parking lot as the kiosk was a shut down hollywood video(signs still up and everything but completely empty facility).

Short of that I haven't really rented many videos over the past 20 years, prefer to just wait till they come on HBO/Showtime/etc. I'm in no hurry. I do have a netflix subscription though mainly for older things and streaming. Disc 2 from the original Transformers series season 1 arrived yesterday...

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I was sorry to see my local Blockbuster go.

It beat waiting for Lovefilm to reship the damaged same copy of a 10 year old film to me for the third time, or sending me the bottom three on my want list.

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Pirate

Thats your problem.

No porn. Of course they are losing money.

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Pint

When I Read The Head...

...aloud, my GF immediately said "NETFLIX." *

We drove by a Blockbuster yesterday, and noticed the facade was in dire need of repainting. Blockbuster's strength is access to studio product, earlier availability, especially in streaming formats, could be the secret sauce that lets them catch up to Netflix.

* Really, she said it in all caps.

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Almost Absolutely

You were just a whisker away from quoting one of the best sketches from C4's Absolutely.

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Pointless

Blockbusters is pointless these days. With dozens of free digitals channels, dozens of premium film channels and various on-demand film delivered via broadband, what is the point of leaving your house to collect or return a film?

LoveFilm have at least made it easy to receive and return films (via the post) if you need a physical disc to watch a film.

Unless Blockbuster "get with it" and reinvent themselves I'll give them 12 months before they're doomed for good.

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Grenade

Transformation won't save them

Blockbuster really needs to die. Now. With Netflix posting/streaming discs directly to the home, Redbox vending machines sprouting up at every grocery store and Wal-Mart with $1-per-day rentals, and online-only video sites like Hulu, Blockbuster really has nowhere to turn to now, not even the "miracle" that their strategerists are likely depending on. Even Hollywood Video saw it fit to keep its dignity and close up shop, and they were much better. Nowadays the only brick-and-mortar video rental places that are still thriving are the small chains and private businesses that carry old, obscure, weird, and/or indie movies, and/or porn.

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Silver badge

IF they're still around.

Indie movie rental places were among the first to collapse. Not even adult video rentals do well--the Internet provided a quicker and more discrete channel for those tastes. Where I live, there are only two places you can rent videos: redbox and Blockbuster, and I hadn't been holding my breath on the latter since Movie Gallery collapsed.

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Stop

What is the point of continuing?

Blockbuster brought out it's only real highstreet competitor in the UK - Choices, years ago and then proceeded to shut 90% of them down. Since then they have transformed themselves into an overpriced video games / dvd retail outlet that just happens to have a sideline in rentals.

If they can't turn a profit from rentals despite having what essentially amounts to a monopoly on the bricks-and-mortar rental market, and they are either unwilling or unable to compete with places like HMV or Game on price then why bother continuing to run the business? I know this may not be the case for their presumably much larger US arm, but here in the UK I would say liquidation is the only (fiscally) responsible option.

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Obligatory Onion link

http://www.theonion.com/video/historic-blockbuster-store-offers-glimpse-of-how-m,14233/

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Alternatively

I always thought they were missing out on a huge market by not allowing people to request films they didn't have in stock. That for me has been where LoveFilm excels - the less mainstream things that a Blockbuster store would never carry.

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FAIL

Cutting through the managementese.

OK, ignoring almost all of Jim Keyes's managementese (or would that be investorese?), the one bit that stands out as the biggest load of horse shit in a statement riddled with horse shit is his comment about Blockbuster being a "well established brand name".

I'm not really sure brand loyalty exists in regards to corporate distribution. They are a place where you go to rent movies. There is nothing exclusive about that. I can rent movies at Blockbuster, at Hollywood Video, at Movie Gallery or at any number of independent shops (that most likely rent pornography, too). Mainstream movie consumers only care about the cost and convenience of renting while supposed film snobs only care about cost and selection. Blockbuster fails at both and as such its name has become synonymous with "unwieldy overpriced inconvenient understocked understaffed brick and mortar has-been that hires high school AV club dropouts". They aren't like Forever 21 or H&M - you shop there because of their exclusive clothing lines - they're more like Target or Ross - you shop there because they offer the same clothes as other retailers at a cheaper price. Why get at Blockbuster what I can get from Netflix, Redbox and/or cable (though they are the next in line on the long "old media" fail train) for far cheaper?

They might have a well-established brand name, but I guarantee it's not with fondness that people think of Blockbuster. It cuts both ways, and there's no way in hell they will ever overcome the negative image they have seemingly so carefully cultivated.

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Silver badge

Of the stores you listed...

...Blockbuster is actually the last. Most of the mom-and-pops and small fry collapsed soon after 9/11: mostly because higher-quality and longer-lasting DVDs became so cheap it became better to buy than to rent. Movie Gallery/Hollywood Video finally gave up earlier this year (their skeletal remains still litter my hometown), and looking at their numbers back in April, I had given them a year at most since they had the same problems that caused Movie Gallery to fail.

And it's the thing I agree about your comment: they're no longer meaningful in today's world. Don't know about Netflix or Video-on-Demand, but I feel the $15 new DVD at Walmart killed the rental business.

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Go

Perhaps.

That might be true of suburbs, but is one of the odd curiosities of small town and big city living: they both enjoy independently owned movie shops. Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Tucson and every other big city I've been in has at least one MAJOR independent player, if not a half dozen or more. Small rural towns, I'm talking population a hundred thousand or less a few hours drive from the nearest metropolis, almost always surrounded by ranch country, tend to have a Hastings and at least one pretty spectacular record store or movie shop. YMMV, but in my experience it's the suburbs that "bought into" Blockbuster the most (and Blockbuster themselves have attested to that being their primary market dozens of times).

As far as the $15 DVD at Wal-Mart... you pay $15 for DVDs? Come on, man. Wait like two months and they'll sell you three copies of the same movie for $8. THREE COPIES OF "ROMEO MUST DIE" FOR EIGHT DOLLARS!!!

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Silver badge

That's $15 DAY ONE...

...if you absolute, positively, must have it NOW (and $25 for BluRay). Yes, I know the price drops after a few weeks, and that actually makes "buy" even more tempting vs. "rent". Plus, secondhand markets love them because they're more durable. They can make a nice bargain buy if you want the movie but don't insist on the box being pristine since the meat of it, the movie, still plays the same (barring scratch glitches--bloody difficult in a scratch-guarded BluRay--on the 1000th viewing as it did the 1st).

BTW, I actually live in a city...one full of Hollywood corpses (the Movie Gallery corpses got recycled some years back). My personal experience with myriad Blockbusters (the ones that are still open--some have already shut down) show them to be clean and well-maintained but still with clear signs of financial distress (mainly lots of clearance stock), and like I said, practically all of the indies disappeared before even Movie Gallery did. I think there's only one left, in fact: a two-store business that I think gets by because its "fetish" section (including "toys") is bigger than its mainstream section. Perhaps a strong video-on-demand presence (my area's served by Cox Communications, a company that caught on pretty early to digital expansion) kept the bar too high.

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Pirate

Blockbuster: Aren't they the folks that . . .

Censor their movies ?? I thought that this was a 'feature' of all the films you could rent there. I DO know that when they were starting out, they made hay about the "no back room" policy they had. No 'blue' or 'adult' films were supposed to be in their stores.

Which is why I have never even set foot inside one of their shops. Patronizing a store that announces it is 'telling me what is good for me" is something I would NEVER do, even on pain of death.

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title ... hmmm, can't remember what it was going to be.

' .... before forgetting what they were doing and walking over to the fridge for some cold pizza'

I am appalled at just how pervasive surveillance cameras are becoming. In future please keep out of my kitchen!

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Silver badge

The writing was on the wall...

...or rather, the tape's near its end. Physical rentals aren't nearly as popular now as they were when VHS videotapes ran you a good $20 or so at the store and eventually wore out when you played them too much. Nowadays, $25 can buy you a new release BluRay at Walmart; most DVD new releases run only $15. Add inflation to the equation (why rentals were running $5 for the new releases), and $15 is worth the premium of getting it watch it until whenever. And since discs are much more durable and viable, the used market loves them, too.

Portable media players actually worth buying, like video iPods, probably became the final straw. Now, there actually was a good reason for Digital Copies.

I could pretty much tell by the time Movie Gallery/Hollywood Video crumbled that Blockbuster was only a matter of time. A couple visits showed me that they were hanging on by a hair: lots of clearance sales and very skimpy maintenance.

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Unhappy

Another victim of the Digital Age?

Blockbuster didn't keep it's eye on the ball and follow technologies leading edge.Other outfits seized the opportunity whilst Blockbuster just watched it's market shrink.

Just imagine if more countries had streaming capability - their demise would have arrived earlier.

Mailed disks aren't really the answer, they can't satisfy 'spur of the moment' movie viewing.

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'Merkin Slant?

Are all the comments 'merkin?

My local blockbusters is a very clean and tidy affair with a reasonable selection and up until recently you could rent 4 films for a tenner, now 3 for a tenner :( but they don't charge a premium to rent bluray.

I would give a streaming service some serious thought if available via the bluray player (which netflix is) but the main problem is my broadband cap. I only have to watch a few hours of HD iplayer content and I get perilously close to the broadband cap every month.

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Unhappy

I agree

Our Choices, which became a Blockbuster during the big change a few years ago is fairly clean and tidy, staffed with enthusiastic people, and is never empty of customers.

I live in a rural town, with the nearest large retailer over 25 miles away. We've lost Woolworths and Curries (games), and our small WH Smiths do not sell a large range of DVDs or any games at all.

The Blockbuster is the only remaining local outlet with a reasonable range of DVDs and games to purchase, and has the added benefit of renting both. The only alternative is the restricted range of DVDs that our local Tesco sells, and as this is a rural branch, only runs to the top 30 or so DVDs and even less games, or the £5 bargin bin titles.

If we loose our Blockbuster, with the really poor rural broadband provision and no cable TV, it will make the area even less attractive to the resident youth. We are already seeing a serious upward change in the age demographic as the young leave when they can.

Yes, we can buy from Amazon or Play. Yes we can download (slowly and encumbered by usage caps). Yes, we can get titles from Love Film, but the postal service is already going down the tube. We appear to only get every other day deliveries of mail as it is, and this will only get worse.

What am I supposed to do when I get one of my kids asking for a rental or game for the weekend. Or for an extra game controller. Modern kids just don't seem to understand "it'll be here next week". They want it NOW.

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Anonymous Coward

Cost

"I only have to watch a few hours of HD iplayer content and I get perilously close to the broadband cap every month"

Couldn't you put a tenner you'd have spent renting 3 films from Blockbuster on a better broadband connection instead?

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Chin up mate

Ive got a friend who lives in the arse end of nowhere and her local spar (pretty much the only shop in the village apart from a chippy and a pizza place) carries quit a good library of DVD's / Games to rent and buy. I wouldn't be surprised if there are local retailers just gagging to fill the gap left by blockbuster, especially considering your average gamer is now in his mid 20's and has deep pockets.

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They had the technology..

I had a friend who used to work for Blockbuster a few years back who was developing an on demand service over the internet, but they divested from it and he moved on along with all the team he worked with.

Just goes to show if you don't change with the times then you end up like the dinosaurs

Head in the sand dumbass management leadership is whats to blame

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