The rise and fall of Blockbuster Video

The (once seemingly invulnerable) video giant has filed for bankruptcy, a victim of digital media. Here's a look back at some of the warning signs it ignored

The one-time video giant's long goodbye.
(Image credit: CC BY: Daniel Lobo)

Blockbuster Video, founded in 1985, filed for bankruptcy yesterday — bringing a symbolic close to the "let's go rent a video" era. In remembrance of the mega-chain's passing, which sent Netflix shares soaring, here's a look at how the press covered Blockbuster's rise and (sometimes inadvertently) foretold its fall:

But let's not talk about that...

"'Every day, there's another story about fiber-optic technology, 500 channels, video on demand,' says Greg Fairbanks, [Blockbuster's] chief financial officer. Those developments may someday allow viewers to choose from hundreds of movies that would be delivered to TVs over cable or phone lines at any time. That could eliminate the need for a trip to the video store — and, to hear some tell it, eliminate Blockbuster. 'But those stories just complicate our story,' [Fairbanks adds]." —USA Today, April 30, 1993

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Growing and growing

"In a phenomenal growth spurt that has reshaped the $10-billion-a-year video business, [Blockbuster] has gone from 19 stores nationally to nearly 1,300 in three years...." —Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1990

Ignoring the warning signs

"At Blockbuster's recent annual meeting [founder and subsequent CEO Wayne] Huizenga scoffed at suggestions that new pay-per-view and video-on-demand systems now in development will sound the death knell for the home video industry." —InformationWeek, 1993

Blockbuster goes online

"Blockbuster Video is always striving to bring its customers the newest and latest information and technology. We are very excited about being on the Internet as our customers will be more in touch and informed than ever." —Gillian Chapman, PR Manager Europe, July 25, 1996

Too big to fail?

"And if [customers] want the movie Armageddon in this Washington, D.C. Blockbuster, they'll have more than 150 copies to choose from. A few blocks away, the independently-owned Video King has 10 copies." —Madeline Brand, NPR Morning Edition, November 24, 1998

Throwing in the towel

"Blockbuster today announced that it has reached agreement on the framework of a plan to recapitalize its balance sheet and has initiated Chapter 11 proceedings to implement this plan." —Blockbuster press release, September 23, 2010

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