Infographic: Rise & Fall of Blockbusters

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    The first video rental store I remember visiting regularly was a local chain called Video Library. They’d put the display cases on the shelves, and below that there would be two hooks, and on the hooks there was one red tag for each VHS copy they had in stock, and one green tag for each Beta copy in stock.

    Living in a Beta household, I watched sadly as the green tags slowly dwindled in number over the years. Eventually my parents gave in and bought a VHS machine, and that opened up a lot of options. It also had better picture quality because it wasn’t filled with crumbs left over from an English muffin that I had inserted several years earlier. Back in those days, of course, one couldn’t afford to replace a VCR over a minor issue like that.

    Video Library got bought out by Blockbuster in 1989, so we continued patronizing the same store under the Blockbuster label. Years later a Hollywood Video opened nearby and we occasionally went there, but Blockbuster was our main store.

    When I moved out on my own…I honestly can’t remember. I remember exactly where the store was, but I cannot remember whether it was Blockbuster or Hollywood.

    Blockbuster peaked a lot earlier than I would have guessed. I guess Netflix was hurting them pretty bad even with their mail-order service.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Cain
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    says:

    Let’s see… a little hole-in-the-wall independent, then there were kids and we tended to buy for them rather than rent, then a stretch where kids, careers, houses, and such pretty much precluded TV beyond basic cable*, then a job that included free cable with everything HBO, Starz, and Cinemax had, then Netflix DVDs. It’s possible that we rented a few tapes from Blockbuster or Hollywood Video, but I don’t remember it.

    * We were chased onto cable by someone in the neighborhood with a cheap CB radio piped into an even sloppier illegal high-power amplifier. Any time he hit the talk button we lost over the air channels 2 through 6 or 7. When some of us talked to the FCC, they said that the scheduled time for their vans to be in our area to identify the source and confiscate the gear was three years out.Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy
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    says:

    We had a local video store (literally called “Just Video”) complete with the creepy salon doors leading to the “adult section”. It was the kind of place where we knew the owner’s name and referred to the store by such (Let’s go to Mark’s and get a movie!) and to check out, all you had to do was give him your name.

    Eventually, Blockbuster moved in and then ANOTHER Blockbuster moved in and I’m not really sure what became of Mark’s.

    I remember spending countless Friday and Saturday nights in high school wandering the aisles of Blockbuster with friends arguing about what we’d watch. I lament that kid these days don’t get to do that!

    When Netflix first came on the scene, my friend explained they were going to dominate. “Why pay for a storefront when you can just have warehouses in the middle of no where mailing these things out?” He was ahead of his time. I was an early adopter of Netflix but actually switched to Blockbuster’s DVD-by-mail service because I didn’t like having to always pre-plan my video watching. Blockbuster’s service — which I believe cost the same amount — allowed you two free rentals in-store per month. To me, this was super valuable because sometimes you’d decide last minute to watch a movie and if you didn’t queue it up days earlier, you were SOL. I defended that model over Netflix intensely! But eventually streaming started and that was that.

    Netflix (ironically) has a fun little documentary called “The Last Blockbuster”. There is nothing earth shattering but for those who grew up with the store, it offer an enjoyable dose of nostalgia.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      We had the sketchy independent stores here and there too (complete with adults-only room) but the real predecessor locally was Erol’s. Strangely after Blockbuster acquired them they re-emerged as an ISP. They were pretty successful too until cable entered the market.Report

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