Chances are, you haven’t been to your neighborhood Blockbuster video store lately. Is that merely by chance? It is more than likely the case that there simply hasn’t been a shop near you for a while — unless of course, you live in Bend, Oregon! That’s right, the only existing Blockbuster on Earth has been found. How is it doing?
The answer to that question is all relative, considering the company’s legendary history in business. Once upon a time, Blockbuster was the largest video rental chain in the world. With international domination throughout the 1990’s, the chain was valued at $5 billion and employed 60,000 people at 9,000 stores. Today? Just one. A shocking turn around, but why is there still a straggler way out there in Oregon? Certainly they must have heard things have all but ended!
It turns out that the Bend location is completely aware of the company’s demise, but it has no plans to close. It was one of two last year, but other storefront all the way in Australia finally threw in the towel. So is the Bend Blockbuster feeling a little lonely and isolated now?
It appears they are doing just fine, with 4,000 current account holders at the location. Everyday, they add more members! Just a few, but that certainly defies what the trend was company-wide. The charm is still there, too: Callers looking to inquire about DVD’s can enjoy the Star Wars theme song while they wait for service, and everyone seems to enjoy this now famous store planted in the center of town. The mayor has explained that some small communities in the wilder areas of America lack quality internet speed, something critical for online video streaming. Even Blockbuster now admits the world has moved on from this old model, but one small part of Oregon really does find it useful. Different strokes for different folks, right?
A Grisly End
So just what really killed this giant chain, leaving one remote storefront in 2019? The answer of course, is the competition of both Netflix and automated video kiosks. Redbox machines presented a pretty low labor cost – certainly less than a full brick and mortar location. Strike one! And worse, we all know how easy it is to avoid leaving the house altogether. By now, you probably have a Netflix membership and take it for granted as the go-to method of home movie viewing. Checkmate! If you think back, it was quite a novel disruptor at the beginning. As a company with its eye on profit margins 24/7, Blockbuster knew the writing was on the wall for awhile – but it was probably hard to admit defeat. Netflix has completely displaced them, and now boasts more than 148 million subscriptions worldwide!
What’s more, they have their sights set on much bigger goals for the future. Decimating Blockbuster was just a bit of fun! The film industry itself has been suffering due to low ticket sales from consumers who now prefer an evening of “Netflix & Chill” over the traditional buttered popcorn night on the town. The company has begun producing their own movies and shows that premiere exclusively on the web without theater costs. What will the future of Hollywood look like if online platforms start to take up more and more market share? Odds are, the savvy studio heads will try to avoid the mistakes Blockbuster made as it tried to fight off an inevitable trend. Exciting times lay ahead for couch potatoes, that’s for sure! And perhaps the Bend Blockbuster should pray high speed internet never reaches the town. It is clearly their only hope in this crazy, changing world.