Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SAY GOODBYE TO HOLLYWOOD (VIDEO): Because the chain is closing its remaining ~1900 franchises, raising all sorts of questions -- not the ones about the demise of the video store given the new methods of distribution -- but more (to me) about the potential reuses for this much real estate. Meanwhile, Slate's Farhad Manjoo explores whether Blockbuster can still be saved through its new 28-day exclusive window (against Netflix and Redbox) on renting new releases and by closing enough stores so that the remaining ones remaining profitable.

The way of the world, in a nutshell: our neighborhood Blockbuster Video was converted from a Boston Market; it's now a branch for a national banking/financial services company.


  1. Blockbuster's other strategy, at least in NYC, is to go into the kiosk/Redbox business in a big way, getting kiosks set up in a bunch of Duane Reades (Duanes Reade?). The other problem Blockbuster faces is that DVDs are so cheap to produce that it's often just as cheap (or close) to buy the DVD as it is to rent it. At the dawn of video rental, studios created a rental window by not pricing movies to own (the $20 price point), for a window of 60-90 days, making rental the exclusive option if you wanted to see a movie.

  2. Steph9:44 AM

    In high school and college I worked at a video store. We'd sometimes talk about how our jobs wouldn't exist in 20 years. Funny to watch it all come true. My dad used to tell me about being a "pin monkey", setting the pins by hand at the bowling alley when he was a kid. I guess I'll have those same outdated stories for my son.

  3. Everything is becoming a bank! But who goes to a bank anymore???

  4. The Pathetic Earthling10:14 AM

    Bank robbers, I suppose.

  5. Here in my little town, we have a thriving local chain (3 store) for videos.
    Here's why I think they'll stay in business:
    * A lot of people still want to watch a movie without having to wait for the mail delay from Netflix or they want to watch something that's not brand new, meaning Red Box doesn't have it.
    *One smart thing the branch of Vision Video closest to me is doing is specializing in TV series. They have a HUGE collection of TV shows on DVD, one thing that's still priced out of range for all but the most devoted fan. They've also taken a hint from the drug dealers, and the first disc (Season 1, Disc 1) of a series is free.
    *Also, they're more responsive to special requests than Netflix. A friend noticed that a long out-of-print title was finally available for purchase from Amazon. He asked Vision to buy it, because Netflix didn't have it. Vision did, he rented it, and it's now in their inventory.

    I recently went to the local Blockbuster simply because Vision's copy of the DVD I needed was checked out. Blockbuster charged me more for the rental, didn't let me keep it as long, and would have had higher late fees if I didn't return it on time. Never again.

  6. isaac_spaceman11:37 AM

    On video stores, I like to think that places like Scarecrow (in Seattle) will stay in business because you just can't get the stuff they have. They used to have an illegal bootleg of Two Lane Blacktop (which was then not available in video, though it was released on DVD within the last couple of years) that they were not allowed to rent, so they would show it for free in their screening room. They also had an old video of Let It Be before the Beatles allowed it to be reissued. But that's probably just wishful thinking -- maybe Scarecrow can't survive either.

    On obsolete jobs, my mother's first job was painting the black dot on the nose and eyes of the plastic bear bottle that the honey came in. Pretty sure that's not a person job any more.

  7. Marsha12:58 PM

    One of the few non-porn video stores still doing well in Chicago is Facets, mostly because they're so much more than a video store. http://www.facets.org/ They've survived by existing for the true film aficionado. They not only rent movies, but now restore and conserve obscure films, produce them on DVD and distribute them. They also do screenings (mostly of art house fare and festival winners), run a film school, have internships, and run their own film festivals, including the Chicago International Children's Film Festival, which is awesome. It's a hard model to replicate, but I'm very glad we have it here.

  8. bill.2:05 PM

    "my mother's first job was painting the black dot on the nose and eyes of the plastic bear bottle that the honey came in."

    there's a great first sentence for someone's novel.

  9. My question is: What does this do to the Quentin Tarantino origin story? To the ability of future generations to "get" Clerks? (As much as the current generation, anyway.)

    On the other hand, this will diminish the chances that I will be mocked as a Blockbuster employee when I wear khaki-colored pants and a blue shirt.

  10. Watts3:18 PM

    My mom typed card catalog cards for the university library.

    Her mother was a punch card operator.

  11. bristlesage4:40 PM

    You shall now be mocked as a Best Buy employee.

  12. Watts5:03 PM

    I can't wear a red shirt and khaki skirt/trousers without feeling like a Target employee.

  13. Does that mean I can wander around the office, play video games and ignore my clients? SCORE!

  14. Genevieve5:29 PM

    I love the sound of this store.
    However, I'm a new convert to Netflix streaming via Wii, and I love it. It doesn't compete with a store or regular Netflix yet because so many of the DVDs aren't available for streaming yet (generally, newer movies are not), but Netflix sent us a disc for streaming for free, and then movies that are in our queue that are available for streaming appear on the TV and we select what we want and watch it. Love it. Especially this past weekend when we were all sick and had a Doctor Who marathon from the beginning of the revived series.

  15. Genevieve5:30 PM

    The special requests would totally sell me on Vision Video, though, if we had one.

  16. Becca7:52 PM

    I've had very bad luck with the independent local rental places here in LA, but maybe my expectations were too high. I wanted a decent selection and excellent customer service. I am, clearly, crazypants.

  17. Oh, I LOVE my streaming Netflix. I have a Roku player that I use all the time. I'm watching my way through the entire series of Angel, which I've never seen before.

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