When a whale dies of natural causes, it dies slowly.
These massive beasts fall down, all the way down, to the bottom of the abyssal ocean. But even the muffled thud of a whale carcass hitting the ocean floor does not signal the end of that behemoth. A whale’s body, the massive carbon sink that it is, begins to feed bottom-dwellers and generate a whole new ecosystem from the carcass. Deep sea feeders sustain off of soft tissue, carbon dioxide, sulfate, and proteins all while using the bones as points of colonization. These ecosystems can live and thrive for 50 to 100 years after whale death.
Why the hell is this relevant? Because this is the same death that Blockbuster is currently facing.
Blockbuster, the Behemoth
Blockbuster began as a humble video rental store in 1985 in Dallas, Texas – well, a humble retail store bolstered by powerful database management. After two decades of acquisitions and expansions, Blockbuster LLC grew to a peak in 2004 with over 9,000 locations and over 60,000 employees. In 1987, the fledgling legend won an important court case against Nintendo, which gave the store the ability to rent video games and consoles. This innovation brought gaming to wider audiences on the cheap and Blockbuster landed an impressive and important niche. I would argue that game rental was one of, if not the factor that launched Blockbuster’s success.
Of course, Netflix, Steam, Redbox, On-Demand, and other various distribution services have taken over business and have virtually replaced all physical retail locations. Of those 9,000 locations, there are currently less than 300 still standing in the US. These 300 stores will not die in a blaze of glory like Frank Miller’s 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae. These locations are whale falls. Everything is being sold to anyone and everyone interested. We can now consume Blockbuster’s last remains…
Get it? We’re consumers… Anyone? I’ll show myself out.
“Everything Must Go, Even This Sign!”
Absolutely everything is currently for sale as Blockbuster readies to close doors permanently. You can buy games and DVDs off the rack. Then buy the rack itself. Then buy the shelving unit that was holding that rack, if you really want to.
DVDs are anywhere from $5 to $20 depending on release date, and boxless DVDs are being sold in paper sleeves for as little as $3. Video games are also being sold at $10 to $35, also depending on release date. If you aren’t making the shift over to a next-gen console yet, you’ll find a ton of Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii/U games in stock for cheap.
If you’re like me and grew up with Blockbuster, maybe you want a little piece of the store for yourself. You can actually buy some pretty unique memorabilia because even the store assets are for sale. No, really, everything must go. Some miscellaneous items available for sale at the location I visited in Rochester, NY, include: Coca Cola display fridges, outdoor banners, store signage, code scanners, DVD cases, racks, the TVs (which were showing Home Alone 2), and even the iconic floating “New Releases!” marquee that hangs above the registers. Actually, some of the registers were on sale too, I think. I’m pretty sure on the last day of operation even the “Open” sign will have a tag on it.
Hell, I actually plopped down $50 for a 20 foot tall “Blockbuster: We’re Open: 365 Days” yellow cloth banner (seen here) because that was for sale. I’ll be damned if I don’t put it to good use this winter as a snow fort banner… Welcome to Fort Blockbuster!
Go, Feast on the Corpse of Blockbuster
Nope, looks like I’m not done with this slightly morbid whale fall metaphor quite yet. Blockbuster failed because it was unable to adapt to the times and new technologies. It aged poorly and is falling to the bottom of the media distribution ocean. The least we can do is honor Blockbuster’s memory by not letting a single bone go to waste! Go forth, buy up every last thing you can and give the rental chain the best send off we can. The remaining 300 stores will close by the end of January.
I’m pretty sure there were even still some copies of Puppy Party and American Poop left…
As I made my purchases, I asked the remaining employees if they had anything to say about Blockbuster. A eulogy, of sorts. They wished to remain nameless, but this is what they had to say:
“Screw the bastards.”
“I really enjoyed working here! I met tons of cool people…it was just a really good time.”
As a tribute, please enjoy this utterly fantastic 1988 Blockbuster commercial. They just don’t make ’em like they used to:
Also, Home Alone 2, could there be a more iconic film of the Blockbuster era?