Perhaps the final step in the humiliation of the once monolithic Blockbuster Inc. has been taken. First it was plummeting revenue, then it was filing for bankruptcy, and now the entire company is up for auction. The company’s top four creditors have joined forces to create a limited liability company that has set the initial bid at $290 million. Either another interested party will swoop in and bid more, or if no other bids are placed ownership of the company will go into the hands of its creditors. I think somebody rich should scoop up this and MySpace and start a pop culture museum.
Blockbuster was once an unstoppable giant whose franchises swept across the country putting mom and pop video stores out of business left and right by offering a larger selection of new releases, pricing them at a lower point due to the volume they worked in, and streamlining the once arduous rental process with computerized records keeping. Gone were the fragmented, independently owned shops that were often unorganized treasure troves of VHS discoveries. In their place were walls of new releases: hundreds of copies of a small handful of films. Everyone watching the same thing, everyone developing the same limited set of expectations. In my eyes Blockbuster did quite a bit to homogenize the film industry. They put focus entirely on what was new rather than on discovering film history, they supplied far more pan and scan films in lieu of stocking movies with their original aspect ratio (even after DVD was the standard), brainwashing the mainstream masses into thinking that “full screen” was the preferred format.
In the last decade rental kiosk Redbox and mail order DVD service Netflix made the brick and mortar store business template of Blockbuster look like a dinosaur, and their rentals plummeted quarter after quarter. It must have felt like poetic justice for a lot of those early video store owners that got put out of business watching the takedown happen. Blockbuster eventually tried to retaliate with their own rental kiosks, and their own by mail DVD service, but they were too late to join in on the prevailing trends and ended up losing too much market share to recover.
The fact that some working class people are going to lose jobs over this company hitting the skids is a shame, but I am ecstatic that the corporate philosophy of Blockbuster is going down in flames. With current movie streaming services and mail order DVD services it is easier than ever for aspiring cinephiles to watch and explore interesting films of all kinds. When I look back on my adolescent years of Blockbuster Video dominating the way we watch movies at home I’ll always remember whole walls of the same star’s face over and over again, a minuscule classics section, a non-existent foreign films section: a film-going wasteland. Sic semper tyrannis.