There was a time when Blockbuster Video stores were ubiquitous across America, back in the era when video rentals were the average consumer’s best option if they wanted to rewatch movies they had previously seen or weren’t able to catch in theaters. With the advent of Netflix, Hulu, and other similar services, Blockbuster went the way of the dinosaur in practically every part of the United States except Alaska, where the company continuously maintained a presence even in the hardest of times. That era, however, appears to be nearing its end, as the last two Blockbuster locations in the state will be closing down, leaving only one surviving U.S. store.
According to a report from the Anchorage Daily News, the Blockbuster stores in Anchorage and Fairbanks will cease rental business on Monday and will reopen at noon on Tuesday for inventory sales that are expected to run up until August. The stores’ closure will leave the Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon, as the company’s only remaining outlet.
As recalled by the Washington Post in 2017, Blockbuster once had about 9,000 stores open across the United States and had earned approximately $6 billion in annual revenue during its highest point. But with online streaming gaining momentum in recent years, the company had become a relic of sorts, a piece of nostalgia that reminded consumers of a time when VHS cassettes and DVDs were still the primary means of consuming video.
At the time of the Washington Post report, most of America’s remaining Blockbuster stores were located in Alaska, where “dark, long winters and expensive WiFi” allowed the company to remain afloat away from the mainland. Alan Payne, who owned eight of the 10 or so remaining outlets in 2017, told the Post that most of his stores were “still quite busy,” with business on Friday nights being so brisk that one would be “shocked at the number of people.”
Despite the presence of customers who continued renting their favorite movies either because prohibitive internet costs made Netflix or Hulu impractical or because they wanted a taste of nostalgia, all the signs of declining business were present earlier this year, as multiple Alaska Blockbuster stores shut their doors, according to a previous Anchorage Daily News report. Payne, who had commented with optimism when he spoke to the Washington Post a year earlier, admitted in April that he wasn’t expecting “any dramatic positive changes” in the foreseeable future.
“It’s tough to tell the customers, it really is,” said Kevin Daymude, general manager of the Anchorage Blockbuster store as he commented about its imminent closing.
“They are like family. It’s hard to say goodbye.”
According to an Associated Press report published by KATU, the Anchorage Blockbuster store had tried to shake things up in May, when comedian and TV host John Oliver sent a jockstrap Russell Crowe wore in the 2005 boxing biopic Cinderella Man. Daymude said that the memorabilia helped improve business a bit, but not enough to make up for a proposed lease increase.