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VOL. 126 | NO. 24 | Friday, February 04, 2011

Blockbuster Shuttering All Memphis Stores

By Andy Meek

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Some Hollywood films are so predictable, viewers can see the ending coming long before the credits roll.

In hindsight, consumers may decide the story of Blockbuster Inc. – the giant video rental chain that in a matter of days will no longer have a brick-and-mortar presence in Memphis – falls in that category.

Every remaining Blockbuster store in Memphis is either closing or planning to close, with several stores around the city wrapping up liquidation sales of their remaining inventories.

Customers are greeted with common sights like large posters announcing “Store Closing – Everything Must Go” and deals inside such as new releases going for as little as $9.

Store employees said the Blockbuster store near the intersection of Stage and Kirby Whitten roads was the only local store still renting movies as of Wednesday night.

Though its closure had not been announced at mid-week, employees there said that store too will be closed, even though they didn’t know when it would happen.

The departure of the rental giant’s name from Memphis will leave the city with relatively few options of physical stores where consumers can rent movies and games.

Remaining options include Hastings Entertainment in Cordova; The Movie & Pizza Co. combination restaurant and video store in Harbor Town; Black Lodge Video in Midtown; and Redbox kiosks sprinkled around the city.

An employee at the Bartlett-area Blockbuster said Blockbuster also has a few video rental kiosks in Memphis.

“We’ve had a great run, and we appreciate all our customers and their loyalty and support,” said Fred Montesi, one of the owners of the local franchise group that runs the Memphis Blockbusters. “I wish them the best. I hope they can figure out where they can go get a movie now.”

Besides the departure of Blockbuster storefronts from Memphis, the local closures are a further signal – if one was even needed – of the dominance of order-by-mail alternatives like Netflix and the convenience of kiosks like Redbox’s.

It’s also arguably a cautionary tale about over-saturation in the world of retail. Bookstores, Starbucks and movie rental shops like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video all paid a heavy price for spreading a glut of stores throughout cities and towns and then got boxed into a corner by either nimbler competitors or the rise of digital technology and delivery systems.

One of the owners of Black Lodge Video in Memphis told a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor last year that “Blockbuster employees literally laughed in our faces” when the Midtown store first opened.

Today, however, the situation is reversed. Black Lodge celebrated its 10th birthday in October and has no plans to slow down.

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