Sunday, October 25, 2009

Blockbuster fast forwards to extinction

So after a dozen years dominating the Happy Valley video/DVD rental market the Blockbuster in the Stop and Shop Hadley stripmall is going the way of the Dodo bird. A tad too late for 'Video To Go' the iconic, slightly funky, video store that opened in Amherst many years before Blockbuster and moved from Main Street to the shopping center near Gold's, errrr, The Leading Edge Gym and then to Greenfield and then the graveyard.

Locally owned 'DV Den' and 'Captain Video' will be happy, but with consumers shifting to online downloads, cable video-on-demand or just the mailorder convenience of Netflix, the future of the industry is not in bricks-and-mortar outlets.

Some of you locals may remember only a couple years ago when Hollywood Video opened right around the corner from Blockbuster and only lasted about a year. Kind of an oldstyle Monitor vs. Merrimack engagement, only in this case one sank (Hollywood Video).

Interestingly this paradigm shift on the demand side leaving large (over)supply types like Blockbuster out in the cold parallels what is happening with the media--especially print media--today.

No wonder Netflix is killing Blockbuster.


Anonymous said...

Funny that videostores are now dinosaurs and even the mega-chains like Blockbuster are doomed. Meanwhile, the little old Amherst Cinema was sold out last night.

Wasn't the videostore supposed to be the death of the movie theater? Cinemark's still here too.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, the old "nothing new under the sun."

Telephone was supposed to be the death of telegraph and radio the death of newspapers and TV the death of them all, and now the internet (that of course has changed EVERYTHING)

Xenos said...

What was great about the videostores was that (some of them, at least) were run by cinephiles who put together amazing collections. It was like having a local arthouse cinema, where you could go at your convenience and work your way through some amazing work you just could not get otherwise.

These stores were squeezed out by the blockbusters, which themselves were too fragile to survive changing technologies. Maybe some brave entrepreneurs could bring some stores back, but what a loss to us all.

I can't believe I am getting nostalgic for the world of just 10 years ago...

Anonymous said...

When a business closes in Hadley, it's "ho, hum, times change." When it closes in Amherst everyone gets in a tizzy about the town being unfriendly to business and it's the end of the world. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

"Meanwhile, the little old Amherst Cinema was sold out last night."

Each theater seats like 30.

Even if that place sold out every show, I think they would still have to beg for donations.

Ed said...

Meanwhile, the little old Amherst Cinema was sold out last night.

And if Blockbuster received the same public largress, from public funding (I am sure UMass paid somehow) to specially arranged parking with meters timed to its optimum use, well Blockbuster would still be booming.

There is, however, a larger issue here: the UMass student market has (a) changed and (b) is spending less. Young student couples both have multiple jobs and hence don't have the entire evening to watch movies anymore.

This, more than anything else, is going to doom businesses within 15 miles of UMass, as they neither have the money nor time to do other things as well.

Anonymous said...


I love it when you say really stupid things.

1. UMass has never paid a penny towards the cinema.

2. The parking still costs money and is at the same rate as ever, just for a longer time. So the revenue to the town is the same.

3. Blockbuster had FREE parking.

4. Blockbusters all over the country have been closing, not just this one.

Anonymous said...

Yes, anon 7:32 AM, Ed is a big horses rump.

As Larry pointed out (as well as Blockbuster's regional manager), the one main thing that is squashing video stores nationally is the same monster that destroyed cd music stores sometime back. It is called "online downloading"!!!!

For someone who supposedly knows anything and everything about UMass, you don't know squat about the students.

"don't have the entire evening to watch movies anymore"?????

What kind of nonsense is that! You really are a big bag 'o wind!

Anonymous said...

Another thing is that it's much easier to sit at home and pick a movie on demand from cable. Just as cheap, no car trip and you don't have to return it later.

Anonymous said...

Ed's big on the "Be very afraid, students will never go to Amherst again malarky." It's just silly. I had to stand behind a line of students at Bueno y Sano the other day that was a mile long.

Captain said...


I am the owner of Captain Video and wanted to chime in here. Not only do I own a local video store but I also co-found and run a 350 store buying group of independent video stores across the country. I have sat on the board of the national video store trade association and I meet with all the major studios on a regular basis. I have daily e-mail conversations with dozens of video store owners in both urban and rural settings as well as many industry leaders.

While video stores across the county have experienced a down turn, the brick and mortar rental business is far from extinct. The closing of the Hadley Blockbuster is much more of a reflection of a poorly run corporate entity than that of the demise of rental business. Blockbuster has taken on a huge amount of debt and is very close to bankruptcy. They are contracting by closing about 2000 of their underperforming stores out of their 5000 locations. Keep in mind that Blockbuster is a vanilla corporation and does not change or bend its business plan for each community it serves.

Captain Video rentals are 50% new release and 50% catalog (older movies which are mostly art house, foreign and BBC). A typical video store in Middle America is 90% new / 10% catalog. In other words, in most of this country the movie watching public will want the latest A title like Transformers and will not want a Fellini film. Amherst is different. Our customers have chosen to support us because we reflect the interests of our community. Our catalog of 27,000 movies has been built for our customers. Our numbers continue to be strong and we are not seeing the downturn that haunts much of the country’s brick and mortar rental stores. There are other pockets of communities that support stores like ours across the country. I have friends with stores in Davis, Ca. and Bozeman, Mt. for example who have been seeing the same patterns we have.

So I would say that the closing of the Hadley Blockbuster is less about the demise of the video rental industry and more about Corporate America’s inability to adjust to each community. I’m personally very proud to live and work in a town that has shown such support for a locally owned business and given us the chance to create an anything but vanilla store. I believe that here in Amherst we have a chance to see locally owned brick and mortar video stores for years to come.

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Captain! I wish you nothing but success!

Anonymous said...

Beam me up to your store!!!

Citizen Wald said...

I was a former customer of Video to Go, and I'm a fan and neighbor of The Captain's, so I greatly value his service to the community. However, I can also objectively say that his analysis is right on the mark. The independent retailers--bookstores and video stores like--succeed not by competing on the terms and turf of the chains, but by providing the sort of informed service that satisfies their customer base. Keep it up, and we'll keep coming back (for years to come).

Anonymous said...

Sorry Captain, but the rental industry is doomed to failure, and will be all but extinct within five years. Simply put, as digital distribution becomes mainstream, consumers will find little reason to travel in search of content that can be brought straight to them. When Internet in homes became commonplace, the internet cafes immediately folded - and now that we are approaching the point where motion pictures can be streamed on-demand to our televisions without any major hiccups, the rental industry will go as well.

It's very possible you can sustain a business with the small number of customers looking for niche titles - though it seems entirely unsustainable to rely on those small number of cinephiles running around. The big rental numbers don't come from several decade old art-house films, but from the major Hollywood hits which don't play to that cinephile demographic. I'd really be surprised if you can expect to compete when the same movie can be delivered to my set-top box, or rented for a dollar at the supermarket. Your only evidence of this "community-driven theory" are from two stores in the middle of nowheres - and I'm supposed to believe the little guy is going to stick it out, when neither Video to Go nor your Amherst Center location could make the grade?

Sorry, rental is dead my friend. As much as I'm pulling personally for DVD den to stick it out - I just don't see it happening.

Anonymous said...

I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
And you et an account on Twitter?

Constance said...

Hooray to Captain Video. As someone who actually remembers the original Captain Video and Ranger on antedeluvian television on the 1950s, I appreciate Jeff and his staff because they know so much about the field and can chat and laugh. That is much more rewarding than a computer read-out from a subscription video service. And to "anonymous" know-it-all and Xenos, go to College Street, sit in one of the chairs in front of Jeff's flat screen and watch an episode of something arcane or popular while you think about renting something for that night. Way beats going to the mailbox.

Anonymous said...
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