Blockbuster Bankruptcy: End of an Era

It’s curtains for Blockbuster.

Blockbuster (Stock Quote: BBI) will file for bankruptcy in mid-September, sources familiar with the situation told the Los Angeles Times. The company’s goal, according to the paper, is not to shut down the stores for good but rather to restructure their mountain of debt and shed hundreds of stores losing money. In fact, Blockbuster hopes to continue doing business even during their period of bankruptcy.

“Blockbuster is hoping to use its time in Chapter 11 to restructure a crippling debt load of nearly $1 billion and escape leases on 500 or more of it (sic.) 3,425 stores in the U.S.,” The LA Times reports. “Maintaining the support of Hollywood's film studios during the process will be critical so that Blockbuster can continue to rely upon an uninterrupted supply of new DVDs.”

For years, Blockbuster has been suffering financially and the situation has only worsened recently. The company has lost more than $1 billion since 2008 and last year alone it closed more than 900 stores. Many publications, including this one, have placed it near the top of their lists of businesses that would likely go bankrupt in the near future.

Perhaps the biggest thorn in Blockbuster’s side has been Netflix (Stock Quote: NFLX), an online video rental site that launched a subscription service in 1999 and has gradually built up a membership of more than 15 million users. This site not only made it easier for consumers to get their movies (there is now an instant streaming option so you can watch hundreds of movies on demand) but it also made it cheaper to rent movies. Over the years, renting a single movie at Blockbuster has cost anywhere between $3 and $5. By comparison, a monthly membership to Netflix now starts at just $9.

As our sister site TheStreet points out, Blockbuster had made many efforts in recent months to innovate and boost its business by introducing DVD kiosks in stores like Duane Reade, as well as adding more video games to its mailing service. These services are where Blockbuster reportedly hopes to grow its business after it emerges from bankruptcy.

Still, it’s hard not to think of this as the end of an era. Even if Blockbuster manages to maintain its presence as a national rental chain, the very fact that it’s on the brink of bankruptcy seems the ultimate indication that consumers have given up on brick-and-mortar video stores for good. Yet, for all the conveniences that come with an online video rental service, there are a few big things we’ll miss about Blockbuster in particular.

1. Terrible movies

Now I realize this sounds like an odd thing to start with but without Blockbuster, where will we accidentally stumble on to the awful movies? Services like Netflix are perfectly designed so that you either search for a specific movie that you’re already interested in, or simply search through genres and films that are recommended to you based on their ratings and how similar they are to what you’ve already watched. But while that system makes it much easier to find what you do like, it also makes it much harder to find films you’ll hate. And let’s be honest, some of the best film experiences are when you watch a terrible movie.

2. Bad Horror Movies

Along the same lines, there’s nothing quite like the experience of walking into a Blockbuster on a rainy night and picking out the worst, most cheesy horror movie you can find. One of our own editors has fond memories of renting a film called The Gingerdead Man (voiced by Gary Busey, of all people) only to follow that up with Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust. Priceless.  (She has yet to watch Gingerdead Man 3-D: Saturday Night Cleaver).

3. Killing Time and Meeting People

Perhaps most importantly of all, if Blockbuster ever goes away completely, the greatest tragedy of all would be losing a place to hang out. Sure, you can find any movie in the world on Netflix, but at least as of now, you can’t find your friends there. More than that, you’ll never have the experience on a website of spending half a night walking back and forth through the same aisles with friends debating between movies and watching whatever lousy film is playing in the store. Where will teenagers spend their Friday afternoons now?

What are your favorite memories from Blockbuster? Let us know in the comments section!

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