Bygone era: Video rental store closing all locations

By Brandon Evans | Published Wednesday, November 20, 2013

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“This is the End” is one of the many new video rentals lining the walls of Blockbuster Video in Decatur.

It’s ironic that the apocalyptic comedy lining the shelves came into the store right before the end of the video rental chain as we know it.

The Worlds End

‘THE WORLD’S END’ – Decatur resident Eric Hatter paid a visit to the local Blockbuster store earlier this week to see what they had left. It is one of the last 300 locations of the chain. They are all slated for closure. The Decatur store will close in early January. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The last of the Blockbuster stores remaining open will close in the next several weeks. Dish Network, which bought what remained of the video chain out of bankruptcy two years ago, made the announcement last week. A large, yellow, “store closing” sign now hangs in front of the Decatur location.

“This is a bygone icon that’s going away,” said Eric Hatter, 52, of Decatur. “They used to be on every corner like a Starbucks. But they weren’t able to keep up with the times, which led to their eventual demise.”

Blockbuster was based in Dallas during its peak years. In 2002, the chain had thousands of stores and approximately 60,000 employees and was worth $5 billion in market shares. But the rise of Netflix and online video rental crushed the value of the brand over the last decade. There are 15 remaining North Texas stores and 300 stores left nationwide. The Decatur location is slated to close by early January.

Hatter, a longtime movie fan and customer of Blockbuster, found himself renting less and less from the location over the past couple of years. Hatter, who served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years, said he became a movie buff during his time in the service and often watched films during his downtime.

“I used to be a regular customer until about a year ago when I got Netflix,” he said. “Most people now get their movies through Netflix and Redbox. (Blockbuster) just couldn’t keep up.”

Netflix revolutionized the video rental service. They first offered video rentals through the mail. People could browse and rent anything they wanted without ever leaving the house. Now Netflix and other companies can stream rentals directly to people’s television sets and computers at home.

“This is not an easy decision, yet consumer demand is clearly moving to digital distribution of video entertainment,” said Joseph P. Clayton, Dish president and chief executive officer, in a press release. “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.”

As many as 2,800 employees nationwide have lost or will lose their jobs from the closures.

With the closure of Blockbuster, the only place to rent movies in Decatur will be at a Redbox. Movies can also be checked out at the public library.

But for those who still like to wander down the aisles and look for something to watch on movie night, there’s at least one place left in Wise County – The Movie Store in Boyd, which also offers tanning.

So for at least one local video rental store, this is not the end.

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