Blockbuster, a video-rental chain that at its peak in 2004 had more than 9,000 stores and as many as 60,000 employees, will close its remaining 300 U.S. locations by the first of the year.
Owner Dish Network, which bought the already-struggling company in a 2011 bankruptcy auction announced this morning it will also end the Blockbuster By Mail service in mid-December and shutter its distribution centers. According to Reuters, 2,800 employees will lose their jobs.
As with the decline of music stores that preceded it, the death of Blockbuster is being attributed to the rise of digital (in particular, Netflix), which curiously enough — and despite fears to the contrary — hasn’t appeared to harm another specialty channel: direct-market comic stores. In fact, all indications appear to point to digital helping print sales. Could it be that comic shops, long the subjects of apocalyptic predictions, end up as the last ones standing?
“This is not an easy decision,” Dish CEO Joseph P. Clayton said in a statement, “yet consumer demand is clearly moving to digital distribution of video entertainment.”
It may not have been easy, but neither was it unexpected (it’s likely some readers didn’t realize Blockbuster was still around): When Dish bought Blockbuster in 2011, the once-ubiquitous chain had just 1,700 locations; by January, all that will remain are the 50 stores owned third-party franchisees. However, as The New York Times notes, they too are struggling to compete with digital.
Ironically, perhaps, Clayton said that despite the closings, “we continue to see value in the Blockbuster brand, and we expect to leverage that brand as we continue to expand our digital offerings.” Dish still operates the Blockbuster @Home streaming service and Blockbuster On Demand.
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