Most Remaining Blockbusters To Close In January

Blockbuster is going to shut all of its company-owned stores. Some franchise stores will stay open. At its peak, the video rental chain had about 9,000 stores.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's look, now, at another victim of the digital revolution: Blockbuster video. The onetime king of the video-rental business has officially gone bust. The company has announced that as of January, nearly all of the chain's remaining stores will be closed down. NPR's Neda Ulaby reports.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Can you even remember when it seemed normal to get in your car and drive to Blockbuster, to rent a movie?

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Do you have any children's videos?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Sure. Blockbuster's America's family video store. You know, we have more...

ULABY: When that commercial aired back in the late 1980s, Blockbuster was on its way to total VHS dominance. At its peak, the chain had around 9,000 stores. But many of its customers grew to hate it. Why? Late fees.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

(SINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Someday, you'll remember where you were when you first heard that there are no more late fees at Blockbuster.

ULABY: By the time that commercial aired in 2005, Blockbuster was a defendant in no fewer than 17 class-action lawsuits, most of them over late fees. And it was slow to adapt to new technology and react to new competition. Back in 2000, Blockbuster repeatedly turned down an offer to buy a little, upstart business called Netflix. By 2007, it had Blockbuster running scared.

(SOUNDBITE AD)

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UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: Netflix increased prices by 60 percent. But they're not the only game in town. Say hello to Blockbuster. They deliver movies right to your mailbox, too.

ULABY: By 2011, Netflix was valued at $4 billion. Blockbuster was bankrupt. Last year, it closed hundreds of stores and laid off thousands of employees. You started to feel a little sorry for Blockbuster when driving past their sad, increasingly bereft-looking storefronts. The chain felt just as irrelevant as the signs once posted on its register saying: Be kind, rewind.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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