I Come To Bury Blockbuster, Not To Praise It
Blockbuster is over. It's been a slow death of a thousand pinpricks from Netflix and Redbox, but it has finally come. The chain will close its remaining 300 stores next year and shut down its streaming service.
Good fucking riddance.
Don't get me wrong - I love video stores. And that's why I hate Blockbuster. Thirty years ago we lived in a very different video store climate, one dominated by smaller stores that offered selections tailored to the community. These were stores that curated their videos, that had employees who got to know you and understood what to recommend. These were stores that were part of the neighborhood. And, in the grand tradition of all big box stores that have blighted the American retail landscape, Blockbuster moved in and put them out of business.
The little stores had a breadth of videos Blockbuster couldn't match, but Blockbuster was able to stock hundreds of copies of the hottest new titles. The little stores couldn't keep up with that, and so Blockbuster triumphed, bringing America a video selection that was narrow - and often edited because Blockbuster wouldn't carry anything harder than an R.
That was Blockbuster's sin, but their mistake was ignoring the changing times. As streaming and on demand crept up in importance they fought Redbox and Netflix instead of taking their business model (at least until it was too late). Blockbuster wanted to be a brick and mortar store in a time when that kind of store was on the decline - and they didn't notice the decline.
This is all part of the huge disruption happening in the movie industry, a disruption the industry continues to pretend is either temporary or defeatable. It's not. Physical media will alway exist - people still buy vinyl albums, after all - but the future is digital. And the future is post-ownership and post-rental, it's all about streaming on demand.
Here's the good news: the death of Blockbuster could clear ground for the return of small video stores. They would be boutiques, and they wouldn't be as wide-spread as they once were, but they could come back. Video Free Brooklyn is a boutique store in just that mold, and Seattle's Scarecrow Video is having a hard time but is rallying a ton of support (you should support them as well! Even if you're not in Seattle! Click here to buy new and used titles from them!) As always has been the case in these disruptions the opportunity exists for the right people to take advantage of a change in the landscape.
Let's step over the corpse of Blockbuster and head into the new day, where we create whatever paradigms everybody freaks out about when they get disrupted in 30 years.