5 Moments From the Legacy of Blockbuster Video

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The end of an era is upon us. Once a fixture of every strip mall and street corner in America, Blockbuster Entertainment has announced it they will soon shutter the last of its retail stores and end the company’s mail DVD delivery program. The venerable video vendor managed to survive many years into the digital age, but as technology improved and consumers adapted, it was ultimately inevitable that this time would come. And while perhaps digital distribution is the superior platform for media consumption, it will never offer the tactile pleasure of browsing the aisles, and it doesn’t come with popcorn or candy.

5 The First Videotape

The first working videotape was created in 1951 by researchers working for the Ampex Corporation. The images the captured were blurred and indistinct, but the viability of the new format had been proven. By the late 1950s, improved videotape was beginning to catch on as a simpler (and soon much less expensive) alternative to traditional film. The first Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) sold for everyday use was a Sony product launched in 1971.

4 Blockbuster Video Opens Its Doors

The first Blockbuster Video store opened in Dallas, TX, in 1985. Within a few years, the company was expanding across the country. By the early 1990s, Blockbuster Video was buying up competitors and opening new locations at a rampant pace. In 1994, media giant Viacom bought a controlling stake in Blockbuster, but continued operating the company under its established brand. This relationship would last a decade until Viacom spun the video company off in 2004, the relationship succumbing to pressure from new media delivery platforms such as Netflix.

3 Blockbuster’s Apex

At the height of its success, Blockbuster Entertainment (as the company was renamed in the mid-1990s, though the storefronts still bore the name Blockbuster Video) boasted more than 9,000 retail locations. In 2004, the company employed more than 60,000 people; working in one of its retail outlets was a staple job of many young people. But even as the company reached its largest number of locations and employees, already the curtain was closing on brick-and-mortar video and game distribution.

2 Blockbuster Goes Bankrupt

In the early fall of 2010, Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company was wallowing beneath hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, and was rapidly seeing its profitability picked apart by newer, more convenient and more adaptable media distribution platforms. Blockbuster’s mail order DVD program never rivaled that of Netflix, the originator of that concept, and the kiosk rental company Redbox further ate away at the viability of retail locations. Blockbuster’s investors and executives hoped to slim down and reshape the company, but it would never fully recover despite all efforts.

1 The Show Is Over for Blockbuster

Blockbuster Video, the once ubiquitous titan of the video rental industry, is closing down in the new year. The CEO of Dish Network, the parent company of Blockbuster Entertainment, has announced that the last remaining retail outlets, which number just 300, and the company’s mail order service are soon to be relegated to history: by the end of January, 2014, there will be no more blue-and-yellow ticket logos plastered across row after row of Hollywood hits. The company rose and fell in just under 30 years.
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