Film and TV

Blockbuster may liquidate, and good riddance

Once upon a time, in the epoch of the president they called "Ray-Gon," there was a concept so new and different it blew the minds of the citizenry: video rental. Say you wanted to watch Black Eagle with Jean Claude Van Damme, but only once or twice, and then probably never again. By "renting" the movie, you could do it, without the cost of actually having to see it in the theater or purchasing it on VHS. In that time, a giant called "Blockbuster Video" emerged.

Over the years, Blockbuster Video expanded, and at one point was (and this is actually true) opening a store every 17 hours. After years of driving the competition, various neighborhood video rental establishments, into the ground, Blockbuster took the "Video" out of its name, got bought out by Viacom, expanded even more ruthlessly, and by the mid-'90s had something close to a lock on the video-rental market.

For consumers, these were the dark days of video rental. In many markets, Blockbuster had hardly any competition at all -- and they exploited it. The rates to rent movies were already terrible, but God help you if you forgot to return one; the late fee rates were astronomical, and the cost of losing a video was even worse. By the time it was all said and done, you might be paying close to $100 just to watch True Lies in your basement.

But as all tyrannical lordships do, Blockbuster's began to crumble with the arrival of Netflix -- a company that capitalized on the source of consumer outrage toward Blockbuster -- the late fees. With Netflix, there would be none. Then Netflix introduced streaming movies, as did smaller companies, and there was Hulu, and YouTube. It was the age of the internet, and it was a wondrous, peaceful age.

And now, saddled with over $1 billion in debt, the giant is brought to its knees. Today, the Blockbuster reported that it would extend a debt-repayment plan up until next month, but warned shareholders that it may be forced to liquidate. And if current market trends are any indication, that's probably the most likely outcome.

Well good riddance to you, Blockbuster. Nobody ever deserved it more.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte