If video killed the radio star, then who’s gonna kill the video store? Internet? Maybe.
But in Redmond, there is one last holdout to offer die-hard movie lovers a bit of nostalgia.
Redmond’s Blockbuster Video is one of a scant few video rental stores left operating in the entire U.S. On the West Coast, there is one Blockbuster remaining in Bend, one in Sandy and a handful of the once-giant video chain stores left in Alaska.
At the peak of its video market domination in 2004, Blockbuster Video counted roughly 9,000 locations across the country.
After years of struggles, the chain filed for bankruptcy in 2010. The following year, Dish Network purchased the assets of the formerly global chain and by 2013, most of the corporate stores closed its doors for good.
The two local, independent franchise stores survived.
When they pulled the plug on the corporate stores, a lot of independent stores survived but over time, those went away too, said Ken Tisher, owner of the Redmond and Bend stores.
“The model of renting movies to the public doesn’t work well anymore,” he said.
“In the late 1990s, we knew the information superhighway was going to eventually catch up with us. And it finally did.”
The very fact that most of the iconic video rental stores are gone is a key element in why the Redmond and Bend stores are staying alive.
“There seems to be a demand out there, a bit of the retro thing that people are interested in actually having the physical disc in their hand,” said Tisher.
Alex Harding, who has worked for the Redmond Blockbuster for six years and now manages the Redmond store, noticed an enthusiastic response from visitors during the total solar eclipse over summer.
“A lot of people came in saying ‘Wow, a Blockbuster!’ because seeing a Blockbuster store is almost a novelty now,” said Harding.
Harding said his store has a steady flow of loyal customers and business doesn’t seem to be affected by the lure of instant streaming video services that now dominate the internet.
“The single biggest reason why we’re holding our own against streaming services is you can’t find all the titles that we carry online,” Tisher said.
“And I don’t think any of them carry as complete a catalog of the older movies that we do,” he added.
Another advantage Blockbuster has over most streaming services and the self-serve “red” video dispensers is the availability of new release titles. Tisher said his Blockbuster stores carry most new releases an average of 30 to 45 days ahead of the competition.
One fallback to streaming video services is that in order to watch movies via the internet, a compatible device is required, such as a desktop computer, laptop or video game console.
And here’s a shocker — there are still plenty of people out there who are not tech savvy.
“We see a lot of older men renting movies who probably aren’t into technology,” Tisher said.
“And many people don’t have the devices that stream so it’s a combination of not being tech savvy and not having a whole lot of other options,” he added.
Surprisingly, the largest cluster of remaining Blockbuster Video franchise stores are in Alaska. This is due to several factors including expensive and spotty internet service and long, dark winters. And perhaps a bit of stubborn loyalty from its customers.
Tisher is counting on that same stubborn loyalty to keep his stores operating.
“We’re keeping it going. The community is supporting it and as long as the community supports it, we’ll keep it open,” he said.
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