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The Blockbuster story: its rise and fall

Do you remember Blockbuster? You could be interested in the last remaining one in the world.

Entrance to the local Blockbuster video store.

We tell you the story of the famous movie and video game rental franchise. / Photo: Wikimedia - RegionalQueenslander

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: La historia de Blockbuster: su auge y su caída

Recently, social networks showed a peculiar video that was immediately viralized among users, being a trending topic. As the 20 Minutes website mentions, you can see the evolution of these famous video clubs, where 5,000 US stores were reached in 2000, currently having only one in the country.

For the youngest (Generation Z, for example), they probably don't remember exactly what it was about. However, anyone who has grown up in the 1990s and even much of the 2000s will remember these famous establishments, which achieved an abysmal decline after the changes in consumption of film and television. Let's see, then, its history.

How did Blockbuster rise and fall?

First, we must speak specifically about the term. According to the specialized website of Film Industries, the concept refers to the “blockbuster”, that is, it is reserved for films that are very successful in sales. Therefore, many people speak of "blockbuster" to refer to movies with great popularity.

However, in this case, we are talking about the company. Founded in 1985 by David Cook, it achieved impressive growth, which led it to have more than 9000 establishments worldwide by 2004 ... although later its popularity declined. To understand it, we must understand how its system worked.

Basically, these were stores where you could find different titles for movies, television and video games. That is, it was a franchise where you went and you could take content to your house under the modality of renting, which is why, after a while, you had to return the product.

In 1994, the Viacom company bought the brand for more than 7,700 million dollars, so after a few years, it controlled 25% of the worldwide market share of video clubs. However, success began to decline, to the point that, in 2004, Viacom itself decided to put the chain up for sale, according to El País.

From that moment, its fall was resounding. People seemed to be no longer interested in renting products, in addition to changing the format of the cassette or CD to DVD. This led to, according to the BBC website, Blockbuster itself declaring bankruptcy in 2010, requesting the protection of the US government.

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By then, the company itself knew that the ways of consuming content were changing, especially due to the popularity of the Internet. Since the films could be consumed, both legally and illegally through a computer, there was no need to resort to renting from a physical store.

Even streaming content services would begin to appear, as was the case with Netflix, with which they have a curious history. Basically, the newspaper El Diario highlights that Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph mentions that they tried to sell the business to Blockbuster for 50 million dollars, when they still did not have great profits, but received a negative and "laughs in the face" before the proposal.

However, it also highlights that they now have a millionaire business (currently worth more than 100,000 million dollars) and, currently, the Blockbusters are about to disappear. Actually, there is only one store on the entire planet, which functions more as a kind of “nostalgic” place that fans can go to remember old times.

The Computer Hoy website mentions that the state of Oregon is the last banner of this brand. The owner of the last store, Ken Tisher, explained that it is a local business, with an image that is far from the power of the franchise several years ago. Therefore, it is a place where many people can go and remember that moment when the content was rented. Will we ever experience something similar again? Not likely.

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