I was watching television this afternoon when a commercial for Blockbuster came on, touting its 25th anniversary and a discount on DVD rentals to go along with it. The commercial concludes enthusiastically, "It's the perfect way to kick off our next 25 years."
That seems pretty unlikely.
Earlier this year Blockbuster lost almost half a billion dollars in a single quarter and just this month the company missed a $42.5 million interest payment to its bondholders and its stock was even delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.
The elimination of Blockbuster from the American landscape would certainly not be without precedent. At its height, Movie Gallery (which also owned Hollywood Video) had some 4,700 retail locations. Today all of its stores are closed or closing, and the company's assets liquidated.
In the era of Redbox, Netflix and iTunes, Blockbuster is absolutely hemorrhaging money and seems to be making a pretty effective argument that brick and mortar video chains can no longer compete in this day and age. In an effort to stem some of the bleeding, the company is in the process of closing almost 1,000 of it stores. The one in my neighborhood is having a 'Going Out of Business' sale, chances are good that one near you is, too.
It seems inevitable that Blockbuster will cease to exist as soon as next year if things continue their course. Its only hope sems to be to dump most of their retail locations in favor of rentals by mail and kiosk. However, given its mounting debt and the low-profit margin the company has seen in the past on its own DVD-by-mail and kiosk program (NCR actually owns and operates those kiosks, licensing the Blockbuster name on the front), the company's demise seems to be more a question of when, not if.
Blockbuster opened its first store on October 26, 1985. Something else wildly important in movie history happened on that day, too.