Blockbuster Video to close last three Lincoln stores

Story and photos by Kassi Nelson, NewsNetNebraska

Within the next couple of months Blockbuster Video membership cards are going to be forced into retirement.

Wednesday, Blockbuster announced it will close remaining stores.

Wednesday, the chain, owned by DISH, announced it will shut down its remaining 300 U.S. stores by early January 2014. Three of those Blockbuster stores are in Lincoln. Blockbuster will also discontinue mail-by-DVD services by mid-December.

“This is not an easy decision, yet consumer demand is clearly moving to digital distribution of video entertainment,” Joseph P. Clayton, DISH president and chief executive officer said in a statement.

Customers React

Not many Lincoln residents were surprised by the announcement. Actually, some were more surprised to hear the stores are still open.

Lincoln resident Matt Foust knew the switch was coming, but said the announcement is “heartbreaking.” Foust doesn’t have internet or cable and has been to Blockbuster every single day for the past two years for 99 cent rentals.

“I guess I’ll just start reading again,” he said.

The first Blockbuster opened in 1985 and has been king of the video store ever since.

Kristin Clabaugh relies on the video store when her two young sons get bored with the cartoons on TV. She said they visit the store for the kids selections and Wii video games.

Feeling nostalgic, Lincoln resident Sammy Triba said the news made her a little sad.

“Going to Blockbuster reminds me of my childhood, going and being able to get any movie was a treat,” Triba said.

Some were actually happy about the announcement.

Brett Brooner is one of them. A self proclaimed “DVD hoarder” Brooner rents DVDs from Redbox but recently went to Blockbuster and bought 15 DVDs each for $2.99.

“They were used and had been rented out, but they work perfectly!”

End of an Era

According to Ad Age media news, when Blockbuster was owned by Viacom in 2004 it had 9,000 locations. When DISH bought the chain in 2011, it acquired 1,700 stores. Now, the numbers have dwindled to just 300 locations.

Rick Alloway, a broadcasting professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln said we are at the end of the video store era.

“I think they’ve seen it coming with the decline of the number of stores they’ve had and closings of other places like Hollywood Video,” Alloway said.

He attributes the change to digital streaming services like Netflix.

“Folks are more interested in convenience,” he said.

This location, along with two others in Lincoln, will shut off their open signs in early January.

Alloway believes a downside of the era ending is job losses. He said the flexibility and convenience of doing things online challenges the need for brick-and-mortar affecting more than just video store employees.

“It’s a ripple effect. People doing art and design work for the shell casings, people who deliver the movies, all those industries are affected by that,” he said.

Blockbuster’s Future

As for Blockbuster’s future, DISH will retain licensing rights to the brand and will focus on Blockbuster @Home service to DISH customers and on its digital streaming service, Blockbuster On Demand.

“Despite our closing of the pbhysical distribution elements of the business, we continue to see value in the Blockbuster brand, and we expect to leverage that brand as we continue to expand our digital offerings,” Clayton said.

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